Carson won't deliver Johns Hopkins commencement address
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."
AAPA did not immediately respond to requests for further comment.
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.
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