Noted neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson stuck his foot in it last week on Sean Hannity’s radio show when he was asked about marriage equality.
“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, be they people who believe in bestiality… It doesn’t matter what they are. They don’t get to change the definition.
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.”
We’re used to venomous right-wingers comparing homosexuality to child molesting and bestiality, but not the head of pediatric neurology at Johns Hopkins Hospital and a specialist in separating conjoined twins.
Oh, and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Carson tried to do damage control on MSNBC later in the week, saying, “If anybody was offended, I apologize to you. But what I was basically saying is that there is no group [that is equal to straight couples]. I wasn’t equating those things, I don’t think they’re equal.”
You can always count on a conservative to come through with an “I’m sorry you took it that way” apology. Especially one getting active in Republican politics: Besides speaking at CPAC, Carson addressed the National Prayer Breakfast in February, has popped up repeatedly on Fox News and said he’d run for office if God told him to.
The real sticking point is that Carson is set to give the commencement address at Hopkins’ School of Medicine. A group of students have launched a petition to get him replaced:
At the time of his nomination, Dr. Carson was known to most of us as a world-class neurosurgeon and passionate advocate for education. Many of us had read his books and looked up to him as a role model in our careers.
Since then, however, several public events have cast serious doubt on the appropriateness of having Dr. Carson speak at our graduation.
On March 26, on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program, Dr. Carson compared gay relationships with pedophilia and bestiality: “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, be they people who believe in bestiality. It doesn’t matter what they are. They don’t get to change the definition. “
On February 7, Dr. Carson used the National Prayer Breakfast speech— which, like our commencement ceremony, is an historically nonpartisan event — to deride Obamacare, advocate lower taxes for the wealthy, and suggest that Christianity requires supporting Republican policies.
Dr. Carson has also used his platform as a famous neurosurgeon to promote the rejection of evolution: “Ultimately, if you accept the evolutionary theory,” he said, in a statement that would apply to the majority of students and faculty at Johns Hopkins, “you dismiss ethics, you don’t have to abide by a set of moral codes, you determine your own conscience based on your own desires.” This belief of Dr. Carson’s was unknown to many of us at the time of his nomination.
We retain the highest respect for Dr. Carson’s achievements and value his right to publicly voice political views. Nevertheless, we feel that these expressed values are incongruous with the values of Johns Hopkins and deeply offensive to a large proportion our student body.
Carson offered to step down to avoid taking attention away from the graduates (too late) but as of the weekend, the school has not announced any decision to disinvite Carson. A college spokesman told Huffington Post:
“Dr. Carson is a distinguished Johns Hopkins surgeon and scientist chosen to speak at the School of Medicine diploma ceremony because of his extraordinary accomplishments as a neurosurgeon and his many contributions as an advocate for education and children.
He was not asked to speak because of his personal political, religious or social views. His personal views are just that, his own. When he speaks about them, he is not speaking on behalf of Johns Hopkins.”
That line can sometimes work when you’re talking about an author or an actor, someone whose output is creative and separate from their personal life. But Carson’s opinion on homosexuality, on the Affordable Care Act—on evolution, for God’s sake—are very relevant to his work, and to his qualification to give sage advice to young doctors about to enter the field.
Photo: White House