BALTIMORE — A Baltimore pediatric neurosurgeon who made derogatory comments comparing same-sex marriage to bestiality has withdrawn as commencement speaker at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
Ben Carson said in a letter to the medical school dean that he didn’t want to be a distraction at the diploma ceremony.
Carson, who has recently made headlines for commentary on social and political issues, said in a March 26 appearance on Fox News that marriage was between a man and a woman, and could not be changed by members of the gay community or by “people who believe in bestiality.”
“My thoughts are that marriage is between a man and a woman, it’s a well-established uh, fundamental pillar of society. No group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA (the North American Man/Boy Love Association), 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 against anybody who wants to come along and change the fundamental definitions of pillars of society. It has significant ramifications.”
Carson’s remarks led to complaints by Johns Hopkins students, and were also condemned by faculty members and the medical school dean.
More than a week later, Carson apologized for his language and said there were better ways he could have made his point — but not before he went on MSNBC to explain that he wasn’t intending to compare same-sex marriage to bestiality:
“What I was basically saying — and if anyone was offended I apologize to you — but what I was basically saying is there is no group… I wasn’t equating those things, I don’t think they are equal. If you asked me for an apple and I gave you an orange, you would say ‘well that’s not an orange.’ And then I’d say, ‘well there’s a banana… that’s not an apple either.’ ‘And there’s a peach…, that’s not an apple either.’
“But it doesn’t mean that I’m equating the banana and the orange and the peach. In the same way, I’m not equating those things.”
Carson is director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States, by President George W. Bush in 2008.
He has become a popular figure in conservative media, and often cited as a folk hero of the Tea Party movement.