NDP Leader Jack Layton laughed Friday at questions about candidate Ryan Cleary's previous criticism of his party's electoral chances. ((CBC))

New Democrat Leader Jack Layton on Friday laughed off harsh criticism from one of his own candidates.

Layton, campaigning in St. John's, did not appear worried about past comments made by journalist Ryan Cleary, who joined the party a week before winning the nomination Wednesday night as the party's candidate in St. John's South-Mount Pearl.

In newspaper columns, Cleary labelled NDP members as "losers" and "aging granolas and artsy-fartsies," and said "Jackie Layton" could not win an election even if he "was given a 100-seat head start."

Cleary has not withdrawn any of his remarks, saying he is a candidate with bold opinions who has criticized politicians of all stripes.

Asked by reporters to respond to the comments, Layton responded with a joke.

"I've been going back and forth across this country encouraging people to take another look at the New Democrats," Layton said.

"And guess what — we've even convinced a journalist! Now that, to me, is the definition of success, because everyone would suggest that's not possible."

Cleary edited the weekly Independent newspaper in St. John's until it folded in July.