Rising GOP Star, Won't Speak at Commencement After Gay-Marriage Remarks

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
March 29 2013 3:56 PM

Dr. Ben Carson, Rising GOP Star, Won't Speak at Commencement After Gay-Marriage Remarks

Dr. Ben Carson told MSNBC today that he's planning on giving up his speaking slot at Johns Hopkins medical school's commencement ceremony

Screenshot from Fox News

As my colleague Dave Weigel pointed out when this story first began to unfold earlier this week, taking part in a softball interview on Sean Hannity's Fox News show is "supposed to help people." For Dr. Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon who has recently found fame as a conservative pundit, that wasn't the case. After Hannity asked Carson to weigh in publicly on gay marriage on Tuesday, he offered this clunker on live TV:

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

"Well, 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 [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 he, it's not something that is against gays, it's against anybody who wants to come along and change the fundamental definitions of pillars of society. It has significant ramifications."

Those comments—specifically the decision to lump homosexuality in with bestiality and pedophilia—didn't go over so well, particularly with students at the Johns Hopkins medical school, where Carson has worked as a doctor for the past three-plus decades and where he had been selected as this year's commencement speaker.

Citing the recent controversy—along with Carson's controversial speech earlier this year at the traditionally non-partisan National Prayer Breakfast, where he offered a fiery critique of Obamacare in front of the president—students quickly rallied to call for the school to find a new speaker, saying he didn't represent "the values" of the student body. (It's worth pointing out that after his performance at the prayer breakfast, the Wall Street Journal ran an editorial with the headline: "Ben Carson for President," which included the line: "Dr. Carson tossed over the PC police years ago.")

Today, Carson bowed to the demands of the students, suggesting to MSNBC that he won't speak at the ceremony:

Asked by Mitchell Tuesday whether he was prepared to withdraw as commencement speaker amid pressure from students and faculty, Carson replied, "Absolutely. I would say this is their day and the last thing I would want to do is rain on their parade."
Carson said he has not told the university that he will not be delivering the commencement address. "I am waiting for appropriate channels," Carson said. "I don’t think television is the appropriate channel."

(For now, let's set aside how live television works and the fact that it's a safe bet that school officials know Carson's decision by now.) His decision to bow out likely spares school officials the awkward position of having to pick a side in this fight.

Carson also went on to offer a half-apology for his comments, saying they were taken out of context:

"What I was basically saying if anyone was offended, I apologize to you. What I was basically saying is there is no group. I wasn’t equating those things, I don’t think they’re equal. If you ask me for an apple and I give you an orange you would say, that’s not an orange. And I say, that’s a banana. And that’s not an apple either. Or a peach, that’s not an apple, either. 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."

For more on Carson and the controversy, check out Weigel's post from earlier this week or his follow-up from earlier today before Carson made his announcement. You can also check out the full MSNBC interview below, which includes some more background on the doctor (who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from George W. Bush in 2008):

(h/t the Atlantic Wire)

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter.***

This post has been updated with additional information.



Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?


Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
Dear Prudence
Oct. 21 2014 9:18 AM Oh, Boy Prudie counsels a letter writer whose sister dresses her 4-year-old son in pink tutus.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 9:25 AM The Brilliant Fake Novels of Listen Up Philip
Future Tense
Oct. 21 2014 9:39 AM The International-Student Revolving Door Foreign students shouldn’t have to prove they’ll go home after graduating to get a visa.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 21 2014 7:00 AM Watch the Moon Eat the Sun: The Partial Solar Eclipse on Thursday, Oct. 23
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.