April 10th, 2013
11:00 PM ET
10 years ago

Carson won't deliver Johns Hopkins commencement address

(CNN) - The conservative neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who last month equated homosexuality with pedophilia and bestiality in a television appearance, withdrew as Johns Hopkins University's medical school commencement speaker on Wednesday.

"Given all the national media surrounding my statements as to my belief in traditional marriage, I believe it would be in the best interests of the students for me to voluntarily withdraw as your commencement speaker this year," Carson, a surgeon at Hopkins, wrote in an email to the medical school's dean Paul Rothman. "My presence is likely to distract from the true celebratory nature of the day. Commencement is about the students and their successes, and it is not about me. I want to make certain that remains so."

"Someday in the future, it is my hope and prayer that the emphasis on political correctness will decrease and we will start emphasizing rational discussion of differences so we can actually resolve problems and chart a course that is inclusive of everyone," he continued in his missive.

In an appearance on Fox News two weeks ago, Carson was asked about the recent Supreme Court oral arguments over same-sex marriage and said, "My thoughts are that marriage is between a man and a woman."
"It's a well-established, fundamental pillar of society and no group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA [pedophilia], be they people who believe in bestiality. It doesn't matter what they are. They don't get to change the definition," he said. 
Carson attempted to clean up the controversy he sparked in an appearance on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer." 
"I love gay people. I love straight people. So this was really, I think, on my behalf, somewhat insensitive and I certainly apologize if I offended anyone, because I was not in any way comparing gays with people who engage in bestiality or sexual child abuse," he said. 
Rothman, in a statement last week, said Carson's remarks went against the "core values" of the school, though said it remained Carson's right to express his views.

"Dr. Carson is well known for his accomplishments as a neurosurgeon and for his contributions to the Baltimore community," Rothman wrote.  "While his recent comments are inconsistent with our core values, Dr. Carson has the right to participate in public debates and media interviews and express his personal opinions on political, social and religious issues. We strongly value freedom of expression and affirm Dr. Carson's right, as a private citizen, to state his personal views."

Some students at the school had called on Carson to be removed as their commencement speaker because of the remarks, and Carson said on CNN "If they don't want me to, if it's going to cause problems for them, I will be happy to withdraw." 

Another group is also seeking distance from Carson. The LGBT caucus within the American Academy of Physicians Assistants has started a petition to protest Carson's upcoming May keynote speech and recognition at the organization's conference.

The LGBT group, with 136 members, has collected more than 1,200 signatures since their petition was created Sunday night. While the AAPA board has not announced a decision on Carson's appearance, its chairman has responded to those voicing concern with an email saying the board's members "strongly repudiate the hurtful words that Dr. Carson has used."

"I assure you that we are carefully considering your viewpoint," Robert Wooten, the chair, wrote in the email. "There are many issues to consider and the AAPA leadership is doing its due diligence in order to handle this issue."

Travis Sherer, the immediate past president of the LGBT group, said if Carson still appears at the conference, they plan on some kind of "professional" and peaceful demonstration. One idea floating around, he said, was to quietly walk out of the room during his speech.

"It's not just a selfish thing for me as a PA, I just don't want my patients to think that the PA community supports referring to gay people as pedophiles," said Sherer, who frequently works with HIV patients.
Carson rocketed into the political spotlight this year after criticizing Democratic positions at the National Prayer Breakfast in President Barack Obama's presence. 

CNN's Steve Brusk contributed to this report.

Filed under: Ben Carson
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Daniel Martin

    I have the greates respect and admiration for Dr. Carson's cibtributions in the field of neuorsurgery. My sadness is for our country in that we have reached the level of the mob in denying open dicourse of issues, even if we strongly disagree. I happwn to agree with Dr Carso; America give us that right!

    April 10, 2013 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  2. freedom

    It's the graduating class's loss to not have the head of Pediatric Neurosurgery at John Hopkins – the very university that they're graduating from – deliver the Commencement speech. Sad statement for the medical school graduates who put social political issues above the brilliant life saving surgery this man practices in his daily life. The priorities in this country have truly become screwed up. If we all lived by this, we would not attend any university in this country or work for any company. No one agrees with everyone all the time. John Hopkins graduates – GET OVER YOURSELVES!

    April 10, 2013 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  3. The Elephant in the Room

    Ben Carson strikes me as a hypocrite. As an MD, especially a neurosurgeon, his "success" is not necessarily the result of being superior in the "free market" but rather having fallen into a profession artificially bolstered in the medical / insurance racket.

    Sure he got into / through medical school [no small accomplishment] but he did so with the same type of grants/loans that his "conservative" Republicans [like Mitt] want to kill. Carson may be ignorant of this or just not care. Either way, he`d close off to others the avenue that allowed him to get out of poverty and that is disgusting. Holier-than-thou Black Republican hipocrites have very little credibility to speak to new graduates. If the GOP wants to run him for public office he`ll learn that the "political correctness" he rejects will be his demise.

    April 11, 2013 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  4. GOP Fails Arithmetic & Integrity Tests All The Time

    Just because Carson is an MD doesn`t mean that he is universally smart.

    For example, his diatribe at the NPB was largely biblically based. His "marriage equality" comments were also biblically-based. This is the flaw in the GOP`s arguement. The bible has no place in setting policy for a government that was founded under a principle of the separation of church and state.

    AT NPB, Carson argued for a "FLAT TAX" of 10%. His rationale? God has set the regulatory "offering" rate at 10% [tithing] and if it`s good enough for God, well . . . . that was Carson`s reasoning. Never mind that a flat tax tends to be regressive. Never mind that 10% doesn`t fund the war machine that Republicans typically trumpet. Carson has given ZERO thought to these realities. But he`s black and was willing to be rude to Mr. Obama, so the Foxites were quick to make him a poster boy.

    He`s not so smart afterall.

    April 11, 2013 05:42 am at 5:42 am |
  5. RomneyWho

    The double speak police is on the beat, striking down the freedom of speech and demonizing all who would stand up to and against the movement to change the definition of marriage. The bullying from the gays and their cohorts. Yes, that's right, the gays are quickly becoming the new big brother on the block, striking down all who disagrees with their life style, as they yelled from the crowd, "CRUCIFY HIM, CRUCIFY HIM"! Who would have thought it? A well planed gay movement have positioned themselves to take over the world. They are quickly becoming, arrogant, self righteous rabble rousers. And tomorrow's forecast, straight folks will be discriminated against. 🙁

    April 11, 2013 05:47 am at 5:47 am |
  6. Marie MD

    At least JHU has more brains than this doctor turned "politician".

    April 11, 2013 06:35 am at 6:35 am |
  7. MaryM

    Good Idea Carson and take your pedophilia and bestiality comments with you. Remember, your comments are recorded for all time

    April 11, 2013 07:34 am at 7:34 am |