(Photo: REUTERS/Danny Moloshok)
World champion boxer Manny Pacquiao has denied ever referencing a Bible passage that says homosexuality is punishable by death after the erroneous attribution stirred a flurry of criticism and even had the boxer's sponsors worried.
"I told (the reporter) I'm against same-sex marriage," Pacquiao shared on Wednesday with The Associated Press. "He said, 'Why?' I said, 'It's the law of God.' That's all I said."
Responding to President Barack Obama's recent endorsement of same-sex marriage, Pacquiao made it clear that he defends the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman in an interview last week with Examiner.com.
In the interview, Examiner reporter Granville Ampong referenced the Bible verse Leviticus 20:13 -- which reads: "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."
The Examiner report prompted much debate and discussion among readers, many of whom were confused as to whether Pacquiao had actually quoted that verse himself or if the passage was simply included by Ampong.
Ampong, listed as the Conservative Examiner, has reportedly since clarified that Pacquiao did not specifically offer that verse during the interview, but that he himself had included it.
After the article was released, Pacquiao was even banned from a Hollywood mall on Wednesday where he was set to give an interview. Officials apparently unhappy with the alleged anti-gay comments told the boxer to find an alternate venue for his meeting.
While the Filipino congressman held firm on his comments that he does not agree with the president's endorsement of same-sex marriage because of his Roman Catholic beliefs, he has clarified that he is not against gay people and that he has relatives and friends who are gay.
In an interview with "Extra" published Wednesday on the entertainment program's website, Pacquiao addressed the controversy, saying: "To the gay community, I apologize. I'm against same sex marriage, but I'm not condemning you. My favorite verse is 'Love one another as you love yourself. Love your neighbor.' So, I love everybody!"
In the wake of the Examiner interview, a petition was immediately started on Change.org urging sponsor Nike to drop Pacquiao. It had gathered more than 4,000 signatures before the petition was suspended Wednesday morning after Ampong's clarification was reported.
The Christian Post attempted to contact Ampong for further clarification on his interview with Pacquiao, but did not receive a response by time of press.
"With great power comes great responsibility, so that's my responsibility, to handle everything," Pacquiao added in the AP interview, acknowledging the stir that the Examiner report caused. "This has happened before. You have to explain and understand. It's a lot more fun to train (for a fight)."
Top Rank Boxing, which represents Pacquiao, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Christian Post.
Lucia McKelvey, however, an executive at Top Rank Boxing, apparently flew to New York on Wednesday to meet with Hewlett-Packard and Hennessy, who hold endorsement contracts with the boxer, to discuss Pacquiao's alleged comments.
According to The New York Times, Hennessy was "extremely upset" with the negative reactions the company received because of confusion over the Examiner article.
"His sponsors know what Manny stands for," she reportedly said, sharing that she does expect Pacquiao to lose his endorsement deals. "He's not a gay hater, by any means. He simply doesn't believe gays should be married."