Self-financed candidate Paladino says the Cordoba House is "about the Islamists wanting to illustrate that they have conquered America by taking down the World Trade Center. It's a claim of triumph."
He's also claimed that "they're going to put on a wall in this whatever they're building, they're going to put on the wall the faces of the men who flew those aircraft into that building."
But in a rather combative appearance on MSNBC last week, Paladino said that his opposition has "nothing to do with religion. Nothing to do with freedom of religion. It's ideology." The Cordoba House is an "intrusion on the memories of the thousands of people that died at Ground Zero," he added.
Here's the full interview, which is worth watching just to hear guest-host Cenk Uygur call Paladino "paranoid":
Lazio, who has referred to the Cordoba House as a "trophy mosque," appeared on a local Fox affiliate to make a similar it's-not-about-religion claim: "This is not about religion. There are many places for Muslims to pray throughout the city."
"But this site here is so close to Ground Zero," he said, adding that "it is sacred ground."
Paladino has recently used the issue to fundraise for his campaign, hitting Democratic nominee Andrew Cuomo in an email for supporting construction on the Cordoba House:
Incredibly, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who is a candidate for Governor, supports this proposed Islamic Mosque. I think this is an insult to every American murdered on September 11, 2001 and a painful insult to those who lost family members on that horrific day.
Paladino adds in the email:
The proposed mosque at Ground Zero can be stopped. Taxes and spending can be cut, and corruption can be swept from Albany- if you will help me.
You can use your Visa or MasterCard to make a contribution now. Won't you send $200, $100, $75 or $50? Even a contribution of $25 would be a big help.
Lazio has repeatedly released statements asking Cuomo to investigate the funding behind the Cordoba House. "In the absence of leadership from Andrew Cuomo I will continue to ask the questions about this project that need to be answered to insure the public safety of New Yorkers," he wrote.
Following the Anti-Defamation League's annoucement of opposition to the Cordoba House, Lazio again called on Cuomo: "Andrew Cuomo must show the same political courage demonstrated by the Anti-Defamation League."
And then there was his idea to debate Cuomo on the Cordoba House -- and only on the Cordoba House: "The time to debate the Cordoba Mosque proposed to be built on the sacred land at Ground Zero is now," Lazio wrote in a statement, challenging Cuomo to defend his position, which Lazio calls "so wrong."
Then, last week, Paladino took the issue to its maybe-logical extreme: He released a TV ad that hits Cuomo for supporting the Cordoba House's construction, saying that "a mosque makes a mockery of those who died there." Paladino also promises to "use the power of eminent domain to stop the mosque, and use the site as a war memorial, instead of a monument to those who attacked our country."
Paladino has previously claimed that he would use eminent domain to stop construction if elected, but current Gov. David Paterson had his legal team look into the issue, and they concluded such a challenge wouldn't hold up in court.
Here's the ad:
And Lazio tried to get an even bigger audience, calling on President Obama to ask for transparency, and adding that he was "disappointed to see the comments by Robert Gibbs yesterday, signaling that your Administration does not wish to engage in this issue of national importance."
A recent Q poll shows Paladino gaining some ground on Lazio, though Lazio still leads 39%-23%.