A neurosurgeon who’s considered a rising star within the Republican Party has stepped down as a Johns Hopkins University commencement speaker following outrage over controversial comments he made comparing same-sex marriage to bestiality and pedophilia.
Multiple media outlets, including the Baltimore Sun, reported Thursday morning that Ben Carson delivered a letter indicating he was withdrawing from the ceremony to medical school Dean Paul Rothman. Tracey Reeves, a Hopkins spokesperson, confirmed for the Blade the reporting was accurate and said a replacement hasn’t yet been selected.
“Given all the national media surrounding my statements as to my belief in traditional marriage, I believe it would be in the best interest of the students for me to voluntarily withdraw as your commencement speaker this year,” Carson was quoted as saying.
Carson, who was among the speakers at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference, sparked outrage when he said during an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity he believes marriage is one man, one woman — a definition that he called “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,” Carson continued.
In a later interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Carson apologized “if anybody was offended” and said he’d be open to withdrawing as speaker if the students didn’t want him. Carson didn’t immediately respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment.
A petition was circulated among students calling Carson an “inappropriate choice” as commencement speaker. Last week, Media Matters issued a statement quoting the original signers as saying a “majority of the graduating class” had signed on and the petition had “close to 700 signatures.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, a neurosurgeon at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, would replace Carson as commencement speaker. The Blade regrets the error.