Pacquiao is known for being straightforward and aggressive in the ring, but he was doing a little slipping and sliding on Wednesday in an attempt to counter portrayals of himself as a gay basher.
In an exclusive interview with Yahoo! Sports, the Filipino congressman and superstar boxer reiterated his opposition to gay marriage. However, Pacquiao said reports that he was quoting a bible verse from the Book of Leviticus advocating death to homosexuals had been inaccurately attributed to him.
"I'm fine with my comments, the comments that I made," said Pacquiao, who is preparing for a June 9 bout in Las Vegas against Timothy Bradley. "I'm against gay marriage, but I am not condemning gays. I have relatives who are gay and friends who are gay. I'm against same-sex marriage. That's all."
The controversy surfaced over the weekend when a story by Granville Ampong on Examiner.com quoted Pacquiao denouncing President Obama's stance on gay marriage and expressing his religious belief that the bible forbids it.
Pacquiao is a devout Roman Catholic who said he had a spiritual awakening late last year. He was living a promiscuous lifestyle and tensions were high between Pacquiao and his wife, Jinkee. There were reports, which Pacquiao has denied, that his wife served him with divorce papers, but he admits she confronted him in an effort to get him to change his lifestyle.
Pacquiao concurred in an effort to save his marriage and now says he reads the bible every day.
In Ampong's story, a quote from Leviticus 20:13 seemed to be attributed to Pacquiao and media throughout the world picked up on it. The bible verse, "If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads," was written in a way that made it seem as if it were Pacquiao's words.
But on Wednesday, Ampong criticized reporters from USA Today and LA Weekly for inaccurately quoting his story. He said the quote from Leviticus was his personal belief, not Pacquiao's, and he changed the story to reflect that.
Pacquiao scoffed when asked if he supported the death to homosexuals stance.
"No, of course not," Pacquiao said. "I had never read Leviticus until this happened. I mostly had read the New Testament. A little Old Testament, but never Leviticus until this happened. But I don't have a problem with gays. I don't. I just don't think they should be married."
Floyd Mayweather, Pacquiao's biggest rival, tweaked Pacquiao on Wednesday by coming out in support of gay marriage. He wrote on his popular Twitter feed, which has more than 2 million followers, "I stand behind President Obama & support gay marriage. I'm an American citizen & I believe people should live their life the way they want."
Bradley, who will fight Pacquiao for the World Boxing Organization welterweight title at the MGM Grand Garden, said he became aware of the controversy on Wednesday while doing interviews.
He said he thinks it's "a mistake to mix religion and politics," and said he was supportive of gay marriage.
"Gay people have their own rights and beliefs and the great thing about this country is that they're welcome to them," Bradley said. "I don't see what the big deal is. As I said, I have gay uncles, gay cousins and gay friends. If one of my gay relatives told me they were getting married and asked me to go, I'd say 'Of course,' and go proudly."
Late Tuesday, the Grove, a trendy mall in Los Angeles, cancelled an appearance Pacquiao was supposed to make on Wednesday with television host Mario Lopez. On Wednesday, though, it reversed that stance and said Pacquiao is now welcome at the mall.
Top Rank's Bob Arum, who is promoting the Pacquiao-Bradley fight, said it has been much made of nothing. Arum blasted Ampong and said "the guy's obviously not a real reporter," and said he knew without even having talked to Pacquiao that Pacquiao had not condoned the death to gays stance.
"I know Manny and I know the type of man he is and what he stands for," Arum said. "This whole thing is crazy. You're allowed to have a view on the subject. I don't think it's the place of the government to tell people who to marry or not marry. People should be allowed to marry whoever they want, man to man, woman to woman or man to woman.
"My only thing is, it's not in my synagogue. I don't believe in [gay marriage] personally and so I don't want that stance in my synagogue. But it's just like abortion. I'm against abortion, but I'm pro choice. People have a right to decide for themselves on these issues. So Manny is against same-sex marriage? Guess what? Millions of other people in this country are, too. What's the problem?"