Organizers protesting Dr. Ben Carson as an "inappropriate choice" of commencement speaker for the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine say their petition has been signed by more than half of the graduating class.
Carson has been at the center of a firestorm in recent weeks following comments he made on Fox News comparing advocates of marriage equality to people advocating for bestiality and pedophilia.
In an April 1 appearance on Mark Levin's radio show, Carson sought to downplay the outcry among Hopkins students. Carson said that it is "still up in the air" whether he'll speak at the medical school's commencement and dismissed the concerns from students as merely "eight students who signed a petition."
LEVIN: Are you going to be giving that commencement speech or not at Johns Hopkins?
CARSON: To be determined. It's still up in the air. You know, there were eight students who signed a petition. And that was not from the graduating class, that was from all the classes. That was what they could come up with. There are others who feel very strongly in the other direction. But, you know, I'm going to wait and see. I think it's a wonderful opportunity, quite frankly, for a university to use a thermometer and to gauge its own feelings toward some of the liberties that are so much expressed in higher education.
In a release sent to Media Matters, the original petitioners dispute Carson's suggestion that it was only "eight students" who signed the petition. Rather, they state that a "majority of the graduating class" has signed on, as well as "close to 700 signatures" from across Johns Hopkins University.
Further, though Carson told Levin that the students behind the petition were "from all the classes" and "not from the graduating class," the original petitioners clarify in their release that "seven of the eight original drafters are graduating from the School of Medicine this year." Among the original petitioners are Carl Streed, a leader of a prominent LGBT group on campus, Jonathan Dudley, and several students who wish to keep their names private.
In a March 29 interview with MSNBC, Carson attempted to explain away his controversial comments and apologized if "anybody was offended." During that interview, he indicated that he might be open to withdrawing as commencement speaker.
The same day, the school issued a statement standing by the selection of Carson as commencement speaker.