Dr. Ben Carson, a rising star in conservative media, announced today that he would step down as commencement speaker at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. His decision followed a widespread backlash in the media and on campus after he compared the LGBT community to "NAMBLA" and "people who believe in bestiality."
From the Baltimore Sun:
Neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson stepped down Wednesday as commencement speaker at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine after complaints from students about controversial comments concerning same-sex marriage.
"Given all the national media surrounding my statements as to my belief in traditional marriage, I believe it would be in the best interest of the students for me to voluntarily withdraw as your commencement speaker this year," he wrote in the letter to [Dean Paul] Rothman, which the dean shared with the Hopkins community.
Media Matters previously documented Ben Carson's promotion by right wing media figures after he trumpeted conservative policy ideas during a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast. Carson was ultimately burned by that media exposure.
The controversial remarks cited by the Baltimore Sun came during Carson's March 26 appearance on Fox News' Hannity. In reference to efforts to overturn bans on same-sex marriage, Carson said, "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."
Those comments led Johns Hopskins students to launch a petition for his removal as commencement speaker, which petitioners said more than half of the graduating class had signed. Carson was also criticized by colleagues at Johns Hopkins who called his comments "hurtful" and "extremely discouraging." In a statement to Media Matters, the co-director of Johns Hopkins University's Program for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, Professor Todd Shepard, said Carson's statements made him look, "nasty, petty, and ill-informed." Carson eventually apologized for his comments, before calling his critics "racists," and then apologizing again.
Carson once wrote that marriage equality could lead to the fall of America like the "fall of the Roman Empire." As of April 2, Carson was scheduled to give the keynote address at a banquet hosted by the Illinois Family Institute, an anti-gay hate group.
According to the Baltimore Sun, "Carson also stepped down as speaker for the Johns Hopkins University School of Education diploma ceremony. New speakers have not been chosen for either commencement address."
Dr. Ben Carson, after comparing marriage equality advocates to supporters of pedophilia and bestiality, and then apologizing "if anybody was offended" by those remarks, and then attacking his critics as "racist[s]" who were trying to portray him as a bigot, is back to apologizing for his "offensive" comments.
According to New York magazine, Carson, a professor of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Medical School and nascent right-wing media star, sent an email to "the Hopkins Community" saying that he is "sorry for any embarrassment" his anti-gay comments may have caused them.
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.
Carson's apologetic email was sent just "a few minutes" after Paul Rothman, Johns Hopkins' dean of medical faculty, sent his own email calling Carson's remarks "hurtful, offensive," and "inconsistent with the culture of our institution."
Carson has been taking heat from almost all directions since making those remarks. The co-director of Johns Hopkins' sexuality studies program denounced his attacks on gays as "nasty, petty, and ill-informed," and apparently more than half of the Johns Hopkins Medical School graduating class signed a petition objecting to Carson's selection as commencement speaker.
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.
Bill Donohue, the virulently homophobic head of the Catholic League who has blamed that church's sexual abuse scandals on the presence of gays among the clergy and criticized the "gay death style," is the latest right-wing figure to come to the aid of Dr. Ben Carson in the wake of Carson's anti-gay comments.
Carson, a recent favorite of the right-wing media, has been at the center of a firestorm since he compared gay supporters of marriage equality to supporters of pedophilia and bestiality during a Fox News interview. Conservatives including Rush Limbaugh, Fox's Megyn Kelly and Sean Hannity have come to his support.
Donohue joined that chorus, saying Carson's comments were a "perfectly legitimate line of inquiry" and calling him "a good man who was framed" in an April 2 press release:
Princeton professor Peter Singer wants us to keep an open mind about Fred having sex with Fido. He says, "sex with animals does not always involve cruelty," and that "mutually satisfying activities" of a sexual nature should be respected. Last month, Yale hosted a "sensitivity training" exercise where Dr. Jill McDevitt touted the merits of bestiality. Her goal is to "increase compassion for people who may engage in activities that are not what you would personally consider normal."
Dr. Carson is a good man who was framed. It's the sexologists and the Ivy Leaguers who need to explain themselves.
It's unsurprising that Donohue would speak out in support of anti-gay comments; he has a long history of inflammatory rhetoric, particularly concerning the LGBT community.
Dr. Ben Carson, who recently attempted to walk back his controversial comments about marriage equality, is scheduled to give the keynote address at a banquet hosted by a notorious anti-gay hate group this fall.
Carson has spent the last several days doing damage control after he compared same-sex relationships to bestiality and pedophilia on Fox News' Hannity, saying "marriage is between a man and a woman ... 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."
In October, however, Carson is slated to deliver the keynote address at the notoriously anti-gay Illinois Family Institute's (IFI) Fall Banquet. According to IFI's Facebook page:
IFI is one of the few state anti-gay groups labeled as a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for its extreme views on LGBT people. According to SPLC:
In 2006, then-Executive Director Peter LaBarbera ... told a religious-right gathering hosted by Vision America that homosexuality was "disgusting" and demanded the closing down of all "homosexual establishments." He called for the repeal of all "sexual orientation laws" -- laws that ban discrimination against gays -- and spoke of the "need to find ways to bring back shame to those practicing homosexual behavior."
In 2009, [Laurie Higgins, IFI's director of school advocacy] compared homosexuality to Nazism, likening the German Evangelical Church's weak response to fascism to the "American church's failure to respond appropriately to the spread of radical, heretical, destructive views of homosexuality." Elsewhere, Higgins has pined for the days when gays were in the closet. "There was something profoundly good for society about the prior stigmatization of homosexual practice... . [W]hen homosexuals were 'in the closet,' (along with fornicators, polyamorists, cross-dressers, and 'transexuals'), they weren't acquiring and raising children."
If Carson wants his apology to the LGBT community to be taken seriously, agreeing to speak to one of the most anti-gay groups in the country isn't the best way to go about it.
From the April 2 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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Dr. Ben Carson has pivoted from apologizing "if anybody was offended" by his anti-gay comments to attacking his critics, some of whom he says are "racist[s]" who are trying to smear him as a bigot in order to silence him.
Carson, who has been lauded by the conservative media and treated to dozens of Fox News appearances over the past few months, lashed out at his critics during an April 1 interview on The Mark Levin Show.
The noted surgeon and Johns Hopkins University neurosurgery professor has been subject to harsh criticism, including from students and staff at Johns Hopkins Medical School, since he compared gays who support marriage equality to pedophiles and practitioners of bestiality during a March 27 interview on Fox News' Hannity.
During that appearance, Carson said, "Marriage is between a man and a woman. 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 against gays. It's against anybody who wants to come along and change the fundamental definitions of pillars of society. It has significant ramifications."
Carson had previously written in his 2012 book that marriage equality could destroy America like the "fall of the Roman Empire."
After LGBT medical students called for Carson's replacement as the commencement speaker for the class of 2013, he attempted to claim that he hadn't been "equating" gays with pedophiles or those who engage in bestiality, while apologizing "if anybody was offended." He also said he would be willing to step down as commencement speaker.
But on Levin's show, Carson went on the offensive, saying that the criticism he has received proves that he's right that "political correctness is threatening to destroy our nation because it puts a muzzle over honest conversation." He added that "the attacks against me have been so vicious because I represent an existential threat" to his critics, who he says "take my words, misinterpret them, and try to make it seem that I'm a bigot."
After Levin claimed that Carson has been "attacked also, in many respects, because of your race" because "a lot of white liberals" don't like black conservatives, Carson replied, "Well, they're the most racist people there are. Because you know, they put you in a little category, a little box, 'you have to think this way, how could you dare come off the plantation?'"
When political novices fly too close to the Fox News flame, they risk getting burned. Just ask Dr. Ben Carson.
After profiting from a Fox News public relations blitz for the past two months, during which he logged at least twenty appearances on the network, the famous neurosurgeon, who has been toasted inside right-wing circles as a possible GOP savior, has suddenly been forced to defend his "trainwreck" interview where he likened marriage equality supporters to people advocating pedophilia and bestiality.
And just like that, Carson has gone from being Fox News' surefire rising star to a target of a widespread backlash. And just like that he's learned the Fox News embrace carries with it grave consequences and that hard-earned reputations can be tarnished in an instant.
Prior to his Fox News stint, Carson enjoyed a sterling reputation his work as a pediatric neurosurgeon. In recent days though, a colleague from John Hopkins told Media Matters that Carson's anti-gay comments made him look "nasty, petty and ill-informed," while students at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine requested that Carson be removed as this year's commencement speaker. (A guest on Hannity last night said Carson had "ruined his name" after Sean Hannity had worked so hard to elevate him.)
The surgeon's tumble from the Fox pedestal captures the cycle of futility that the cable channel has mastered in recent years in its never-ending pursuit to prop up challengers to President Obama. And it's never-ending pursuit to find a lazy shortcut for launching candidates. (Think: Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, and Herman Cain, among others.)
But not only did Carson badly stumble with his shocking comments about marriage equality, but as we've seen from this predictable model, he's also been turned into a professional victim by the right-wing media, whose practitioners like nothing better than ignoring substantive debates in order to complain about alleged biases in the press coverage. (All the while being careful not to actually repeat or explain what Carson's scandalous remarks were, of course.)
Cue Rush Limbaugh:
-"We are in the midst of mob rule now. In this case led by the trolls at Media Matters and aided and abetted by the so-called mainstream media."
-"Amidst all this talk of equality, Ben Carson is not allowed to voice his opinion."
From the April 1 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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From the March 29 edition of MSNBC's Martin Bashir:
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From the March 29 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Dr. Benjamin Carson, who has come under heavy criticism in recent days for comparing marriage equality supporters to advocates of bestiality and pedophilia, wrote in his 2012 book that marriage equality "is a slippery slope with a disastrous ending, as witnessed in the dramatic fall of the Roman Empire."
In a March 26 appearance on Fox News (where he has recently become a regular fixture), Carson said, "Marriage is between a man and a woman. 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." He added that his argument is "not something against gays," but "against anybody who wants to come along and change the fundamental definitions of pillars of society. It has significant ramifications."
Carson also pushed anti-marriage equality views in his most recent book. Carson warned in America the Beautiful that attempts to "redefine marriage" could lead to a "disastrous ending" for America on par with the fall of the Roman Empire. He explained that his opposition is "a logical and reasoned view" because marriage between a man and a woman benefits the "family structure and the propagation of humankind. ... God obviously knew what he was doing when he ordained the traditional family, and we should not denigrate it in order to uplift some alternative."
Carson added that he has "no problem whatsoever with allowing gay people to live as they please, as long as they don't try to impose their lifestyle on everyone else" and would support "gays or non-gays" having a legally binding relationship "that helps with the adjudication of property rights and other legal matters." Carson then compared this legal relationship to allowing Muslims to privately practice religion: "Likewise, I have no problem with Muslims or other religious groups who want to practice their religion in their homes, which may be vastly different from traditional Judeo-Christian religion, as long as they don't try to impose that on others or violate our laws."
A group of students from the graduating class at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine are calling for the replacement of Dr. Ben Carson as commencement speaker for the class of 2013 following his "deeply offensive" comments on marriage equality and other issues.
In a letter obtained by Media Matters, eight members of the school's class of 2013, including a co-chair of the school's LGBT organization, ask their fellow students to sign a petition describing Carson, a neurosurgery professor at the university, as "an inappropriate choice of speaker at a ceremony intended to celebrate the achievements of our class."
The letter has been circulated across Hopkins School of Medicine, School of Nursing, School of Public Health, and other institutions, according to a signatory.
Carson, who has become a celebrity in recent months among the right-wing media, has come under fire in the media and from members of the Hopkins community since comparing gay relationships with pedophilia and bestiality during a Fox News appearance earlier this week.
His comments were condemned as "nasty," "petty," "ill-informed," "rancid" and "reactionary" by Professor Todd Shepard, the co-director of the university's sexuality studies program. Current and former leaders of the organization representing the LGBT members of the Johns Hopkins medical institutions told Media Matters they found the comments "hurtful" and "extremely discouraging."
One of those leaders, Carl Streed, is among the letter's signatories. Streed represents the School of Medicine among the leadership of the Gertrude Stein Society (GSS), a group of more than 300 students, faculty, staff and alumni of the Hopkins Schools of Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health who work to promote LGBT issues on campus.
Media Matters is withholding the names of the other students who signed the letter to protect their privacy.
The signatories say that at the time of Carson's nomination as the class commencement speaker, the professor "was known to most of us as a world-class neurosurgeon and passionate advocate for education" and that many students "looked up to him as a role model in our careers."
But they write Carson's recent comments about marriage equality, his past statements rejecting evolution, and his use of his National Prayer Breakfast platform to issue a speech denouncing Obamacare, "have cast serious doubt on the appropriateness of having Dr. Carson speak at our graduation." While they acknowledge Carson has the right to publicly voice his political views, they write that those views are "incongruous with the values of Johns Hopkins and deeply offensive to a large proportion our student body."
Current and former leaders of the organization representing the LGBT members of the Johns Hopkins medical institutions say they found recent comments from Dr. Ben Carson comparing marriage equality supporters to advocates of pedophilia and bestiality "extremely discouraging" and "hurtful."
Carl Streed, a 2013 MD candidate at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a longtime LGBT advocate at the local and national level, told Media Matters that he was "extremely disappointed" by Carson's views, calling the comments a "remarkable throwback to the language of the 1990s," when vicious debates surrounded the passage of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act.
Streed represents the School of Medicine among the leadership of the Gertrude Stein Society (GSS), a group of more than 300 students, faculty, staff and alumni of the Hopkins Schools of Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health who work to promote LGBT issues on campus.
Brent Turner, who served as a GSS co-chair representing the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health during the 2011-2012 school year before graduating, told Media Matters that "[w]hile I can respect Dr. Carson's belief that political correctness can and does stifle debate, his most recent remarks are hurtful and out of touch."
Their comments come as Carson, a Hopkins neurology professor, finds himself at the center of a firestorm surrounding his recent comments about marriage equality.
During a March 26 appearance on Fox News, Carson said, "Marriage is between a man and a woman. 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 against gays," he added. "It's against anybody who wants to come along and change the fundamental definitions of pillars of society. It has significant ramifications."
Carson, who has recently become a sensation among conservative media, has been subjected to withering criticism for the remarks. Media figures have criticized Carson for using the "rhetoric of the extreme right" during the "trainwreck of an interview."