Dr. Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon and recent star of the conservative movement, has apologized for comments on homosexuality that had Johns Hopkins students clamoring for his ouster as their commencement speaker.
"Although I do believe marriage is between a man and a woman, there are much less offensive ways to make that point," Carson wrote in a letter to the Hopkins community. "I hope all will look at a lifetime of service over some poorly chosen words."
During a March 26 TV interview with Fox News's Sean Hannity, Carson compared homosexuality to bestiality and pedophilia in explaining his view that "marriage" can only describe a heterosexual relationship.
"Marriage is between a man and a woman, it's a well established fundamental pillar of society," Carson told Hannity. "And no group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality, it doesn't matter what they are. They don't get to change the definition, so it's not something that's against gays, it's agianst anybody who wants to come along and change the fundamental definitions of pillars of society-it has significant ramifications."
That comment had roiled some students, ahead of his scheduled commencement address at Hopkins' medical-school graduation ceremony.
"We retain the highest respect for Dr. Carson's achievements and value his right to publicly voice political views. Nevertheless, we feel that these expressed values are incongruous with the values of Johns Hopkins and deeply offensive to a large proportion our student body," the Health and Human Rights Student Group wrote on its Facebook page, asking the school to "select an alternative speaker."
Today, Dean of medical Faculty Paul Rothman called the comments "offensive" in an open letter and announced that faculty would meet with graduating students to discuss the matter. Carson, meanwhile, apologized.
"Controversial social issues are debated in the media on a regular basis, and yet it is rare that leaders of an academic medical center will join that type of public debate," Rothman wrote. "However, we recognize that tension now exists in our community because hurtful, offensive language was used by our colleague, Dr. Ben Carson, when conveying a personal opinion. Dr. Carson's comments are inconsistent with the culture of our institution."
Carson had previously told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell that his words were "completely taken out of context and completely misunderstood," while also offering the semi-apology, "If anyone was offended, I apologize to you" and noting that, as a Christian, he loves all people, including gays.
Today, he offered a fuller version in a letter to the Hopkins community:
Dear Colleagues, Friends and Associates:
As you know, I have been in the national news quite a bit recently and my 36 year association with Johns Hopkins has unfortunately dragged our institution into the spotlight as well. I am sorry for any embarrassment this has caused. But what really saddens me is that my poorly chosen words caused pain for some members of our community and for that I offer a most sincere and heartfelt apology. Hurting others is diametrically opposed to who I am and what I believe. There are many lessons to be learned when venturing into the political world and this is one I will not forget. Although I do believe marriage is between a man and a woman, there are much less offensive ways to make that point. I hope all will look at a lifetime of service over some poorly chosen words.
Benjamin S Carson Sr MD
Carson has been a rising conservative star. At the National Prayer Breakfast in March, with President Obama seated just feet away from him, Carson delivered a speech in which he criticized political correctness and called for private health savings accounts to address health-care spending. His address prompted The Wall Street Journal to publish an editorial entitled, "Ben Carson for President," and the neurosurgeon delivered a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference later last month.