Dr. Ben Carson, a surgeon who criticized President Obama over health care policy at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast, was heavily promoted by Fox News for his conservative views before flaming out following controversial statements regarding gay marriage. But after news broke that a political action committee (PAC) had been formed to draft him to run for president, On The Record with Greta Van Susteren invited Carson on and asked him the "best reason" he should be president. Carson responded with what sounded suspiciously like a stump speech.
On August 22, Politico reported that a PAC had been registered as the "National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee." According to Politico, the group was formed to urge "the neurosurgeon and Obamacare critic to throw his hat into the ring for 2016." That night, Fox's Greta Van Susteren hosted Carson to get his reaction. But first, Van Susteren asked Carson to "tell us, what would be the best reason for Dr. Ben Carson to be president and what would be the not-so best idea." Carson responded by mentioning several times how he has traveled the country and spoken to "enormous" crowds about how America needs "common sense" and "somebody who can create a vision."
Carson insisted that he was reluctant to run for president, an act which itself has become a signal of presidential ambitions. Speculation about Carson's plans are even stronger when placed in context of his 2012 book, recent speaking engagements, and television appearances.
Carson was widely promoted by Fox News as a new conservative leader and possible 2016 contender after he criticized President Obama during his keynote address at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast, where Carson made conservative arguments about health care, tax policy, and the national debt. The hosts of Fox & Friends attempted to recruit him to run for president. Sean Hannity asked Carson directly if he would run for president, before declaring, "I would vote for you in a heartbeat." Hannity even devoted an hour-long show to promoting Ben Carson as the man who is "saving America." This campaign for Carson eventually prompted Fox's Eric Bolling to criticize conservatives for "desperately" pushing him to run.
While Fox has often attempted to rehabilitate conservative candidates and media figures -- most recently former Fox employee and Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), Carson may be unique in that the comments that got him in trouble came out of his frequent Fox appearances. While making the rounds on the network, Carson stumbled into controversy when he compared marriage equality advocates to supporters of pedophilia and bestiality, later both apologizing and attacking his critics. Carson's own colleagues at Johns Hopkins University called his remarks "nasty, petty, and ill-informed," and he was ultimately forced to step down as a 2013 commencement speaker at Johns Hopkins.
Fox has a history of heavily promoting its own hand-picked candidates. The network has advocated at various points for the election of Sarah Palin, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Scott Brown, New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, and Pinal County (AZ) Sheriff Paul Babeu.
From the August 9 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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After comparing gay marriage to bestiality and pedophilia, Dr. Ben Carson used his first column at right-wing paper The Washington Times to condemn political correctness as "one of the most malignant and destructive tendencies" in America.
Dr. Carson, a neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins, became a conservative media star after criticizing President Obama's health care law at the National Prayer Breakfast in February. Following his comments, Carson was a frequent guest on Fox News shows and promoted as a potential GOP presidential candidate by Fox hosts.
On July 10 Washington Times announced that Carson would be joining their team as a weekly opinion columnist, calling him "one of the freshest and most powerful voices in the conservative movement." In his first column, Carson attacked the "PC police" who "intentionally took something I said out of context" in order to have "a conversation about me and whether or not I was a homophobe":
The point of my answer was that once we begin changing essential definitions, it will be difficult to draw a line in the sand that indicates we won't continue to change it beyond that point. My answer was not so much about homosexuals or any of the other groups that were mentioned, but rather about our need to maintain certain behavioral definitions and standards in order to preserve our identity. If we keep redefining our fundamental institutions, how will we or our progeny have a social anchor on which to base our behavior?
The PC police tried to persuade people that I was comparing same-sex behavior with unacceptable forms of sexual variation. I was not making that comparison, but the speech minders insisted that it was my intention, as though they knew more about my intentions than I did. Their desire was to change the focus of the argument and to shut me up.
Later in the column, Carson claimed his stance on marriage equality is that "I did not think that any group had the right to change the definition of a fundamental pillar of society" But Carson is downplaying his own remarks. On the March 26 edition of Fox News's Hannity, Carson was asked his views on gay marriage and responded [emphasis added]:
Dr. Ben Carson, a rising star in conservative media, announced today that he would step down as commencement speaker at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. His decision followed a widespread backlash in the media and on campus after he compared the LGBT community to "NAMBLA" and "people who believe in bestiality."
From the Baltimore Sun:
Neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson stepped down Wednesday as commencement speaker at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine after complaints from students about controversial comments concerning same-sex marriage.
"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," he wrote in the letter to [Dean Paul] Rothman, which the dean shared with the Hopkins community.
Media Matters previously documented Ben Carson's promotion by right wing media figures after he trumpeted conservative policy ideas during a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast. Carson was ultimately burned by that media exposure.
The controversial remarks cited by the Baltimore Sun came during Carson's March 26 appearance on Fox News' Hannity. In reference to efforts to overturn bans on same-sex marriage, Carson said, "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."
Those comments led Johns Hopskins students to launch a petition for his removal as commencement speaker, which petitioners said more than half of the graduating class had signed. Carson was also criticized by colleagues at Johns Hopkins who called his comments "hurtful" and "extremely discouraging." In a statement to Media Matters, the co-director of Johns Hopkins University's Program for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, Professor Todd Shepard, said Carson's statements made him look, "nasty, petty, and ill-informed." Carson eventually apologized for his comments, before calling his critics "racists," and then apologizing again.
Carson once wrote that marriage equality could lead to the fall of America like the "fall of the Roman Empire." As of April 2, Carson was scheduled to give the keynote address at a banquet hosted by the Illinois Family Institute, an anti-gay hate group.
According to the Baltimore Sun, "Carson also stepped down as speaker for the Johns Hopkins University School of Education diploma ceremony. New speakers have not been chosen for either commencement address."
Dr. Ben Carson, after comparing marriage equality advocates to supporters of pedophilia and bestiality, and then apologizing "if anybody was offended" by those remarks, and then attacking his critics as "racist[s]" who were trying to portray him as a bigot, is back to apologizing for his "offensive" comments.
According to New York magazine, Carson, a professor of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Medical School and nascent right-wing media star, sent an email to "the Hopkins Community" saying that he is "sorry for any embarrassment" his anti-gay comments may have caused them.
But what really saddens me is that my poorly chosen words caused pain for some members of our community and for that I offer a most sincere and heartfelt apology. Hurting others is diametrically opposed to who I am and what I believe. There are many lessons to be learned when venturing into the political world and this is one I will not forget. Although I do believe marriage is between a man and a woman, there are much less offensive ways to make that point. I hope all will look at a lifetime of service over some poorly chosen words.
Carson's apologetic email was sent just "a few minutes" after Paul Rothman, Johns Hopkins' dean of medical faculty, sent his own email calling Carson's remarks "hurtful, offensive," and "inconsistent with the culture of our institution."
Carson has been taking heat from almost all directions since making those remarks. The co-director of Johns Hopkins' sexuality studies program denounced his attacks on gays as "nasty, petty, and ill-informed," and apparently more than half of the Johns Hopkins Medical School graduating class signed a petition objecting to Carson's selection as commencement speaker.
Organizers protesting Dr. Ben Carson as an "inappropriate choice" of commencement speaker for the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine say their petition has been signed by more than half of the graduating class.
Carson has been at the center of a firestorm in recent weeks following comments he made on Fox News comparing advocates of marriage equality to people advocating for bestiality and pedophilia.
In an April 1 appearance on Mark Levin's radio show, Carson sought to downplay the outcry among Hopkins students. Carson said that it is "still up in the air" whether he'll speak at the medical school's commencement and dismissed the concerns from students as merely "eight students who signed a petition."
LEVIN: Are you going to be giving that commencement speech or not at Johns Hopkins?
CARSON: To be determined. It's still up in the air. You know, there were eight students who signed a petition. And that was not from the graduating class, that was from all the classes. That was what they could come up with. There are others who feel very strongly in the other direction. But, you know, I'm going to wait and see. I think it's a wonderful opportunity, quite frankly, for a university to use a thermometer and to gauge its own feelings toward some of the liberties that are so much expressed in higher education.
In a release sent to Media Matters, the original petitioners dispute Carson's suggestion that it was only "eight students" who signed the petition. Rather, they state that a "majority of the graduating class" has signed on, as well as "close to 700 signatures" from across Johns Hopkins University.
Further, though Carson told Levin that the students behind the petition were "from all the classes" and "not from the graduating class," the original petitioners clarify in their release that "seven of the eight original drafters are graduating from the School of Medicine this year." Among the original petitioners are Carl Streed, a leader of a prominent LGBT group on campus, Jonathan Dudley, and several students who wish to keep their names private.
In a March 29 interview with MSNBC, Carson attempted to explain away his controversial comments and apologized if "anybody was offended." During that interview, he indicated that he might be open to withdrawing as commencement speaker.
The same day, the school issued a statement standing by the selection of Carson as commencement speaker.
Bill Donohue, the virulently homophobic head of the Catholic League who has blamed that church's sexual abuse scandals on the presence of gays among the clergy and criticized the "gay death style," is the latest right-wing figure to come to the aid of Dr. Ben Carson in the wake of Carson's anti-gay comments.
Carson, a recent favorite of the right-wing media, has been at the center of a firestorm since he compared gay supporters of marriage equality to supporters of pedophilia and bestiality during a Fox News interview. Conservatives including Rush Limbaugh, Fox's Megyn Kelly and Sean Hannity have come to his support.
Donohue joined that chorus, saying Carson's comments were a "perfectly legitimate line of inquiry" and calling him "a good man who was framed" in an April 2 press release:
Princeton professor Peter Singer wants us to keep an open mind about Fred having sex with Fido. He says, "sex with animals does not always involve cruelty," and that "mutually satisfying activities" of a sexual nature should be respected. Last month, Yale hosted a "sensitivity training" exercise where Dr. Jill McDevitt touted the merits of bestiality. Her goal is to "increase compassion for people who may engage in activities that are not what you would personally consider normal."
Dr. Carson is a good man who was framed. It's the sexologists and the Ivy Leaguers who need to explain themselves.
It's unsurprising that Donohue would speak out in support of anti-gay comments; he has a long history of inflammatory rhetoric, particularly concerning the LGBT community.
Dr. Ben Carson, who recently attempted to walk back his controversial comments about marriage equality, is scheduled to give the keynote address at a banquet hosted by a notorious anti-gay hate group this fall.
Carson has spent the last several days doing damage control after he compared same-sex relationships to bestiality and pedophilia on Fox News' Hannity, saying "marriage is between a man and a woman ... 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."
In October, however, Carson is slated to deliver the keynote address at the notoriously anti-gay Illinois Family Institute's (IFI) Fall Banquet. According to IFI's Facebook page:
IFI is one of the few state anti-gay groups labeled as a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for its extreme views on LGBT people. According to SPLC:
In 2006, then-Executive Director Peter LaBarbera ... told a religious-right gathering hosted by Vision America that homosexuality was "disgusting" and demanded the closing down of all "homosexual establishments." He called for the repeal of all "sexual orientation laws" -- laws that ban discrimination against gays -- and spoke of the "need to find ways to bring back shame to those practicing homosexual behavior."
In 2009, [Laurie Higgins, IFI's director of school advocacy] compared homosexuality to Nazism, likening the German Evangelical Church's weak response to fascism to the "American church's failure to respond appropriately to the spread of radical, heretical, destructive views of homosexuality." Elsewhere, Higgins has pined for the days when gays were in the closet. "There was something profoundly good for society about the prior stigmatization of homosexual practice... . [W]hen homosexuals were 'in the closet,' (along with fornicators, polyamorists, cross-dressers, and 'transexuals'), they weren't acquiring and raising children."
If Carson wants his apology to the LGBT community to be taken seriously, agreeing to speak to one of the most anti-gay groups in the country isn't the best way to go about it.
From the April 2 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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Dr. Ben Carson has pivoted from apologizing "if anybody was offended" by his anti-gay comments to attacking his critics, some of whom he says are "racist[s]" who are trying to smear him as a bigot in order to silence him.
Carson, who has been lauded by the conservative media and treated to dozens of Fox News appearances over the past few months, lashed out at his critics during an April 1 interview on The Mark Levin Show.
The noted surgeon and Johns Hopkins University neurosurgery professor has been subject to harsh criticism, including from students and staff at Johns Hopkins Medical School, since he compared gays who support marriage equality to pedophiles and practitioners of bestiality during a March 27 interview on Fox News' Hannity.
During that appearance, Carson said, "Marriage is between a man and a woman. 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. So, it's not something against gays. It's against anybody who wants to come along and change the fundamental definitions of pillars of society. It has significant ramifications."
Carson had previously written in his 2012 book that marriage equality could destroy America like the "fall of the Roman Empire."
After LGBT medical students called for Carson's replacement as the commencement speaker for the class of 2013, he attempted to claim that he hadn't been "equating" gays with pedophiles or those who engage in bestiality, while apologizing "if anybody was offended." He also said he would be willing to step down as commencement speaker.
But on Levin's show, Carson went on the offensive, saying that the criticism he has received proves that he's right that "political correctness is threatening to destroy our nation because it puts a muzzle over honest conversation." He added that "the attacks against me have been so vicious because I represent an existential threat" to his critics, who he says "take my words, misinterpret them, and try to make it seem that I'm a bigot."
After Levin claimed that Carson has been "attacked also, in many respects, because of your race" because "a lot of white liberals" don't like black conservatives, Carson replied, "Well, they're the most racist people there are. Because you know, they put you in a little category, a little box, 'you have to think this way, how could you dare come off the plantation?'"
When political novices fly too close to the Fox News flame, they risk getting burned. Just ask Dr. Ben Carson.
After profiting from a Fox News public relations blitz for the past two months, during which he logged at least twenty appearances on the network, the famous neurosurgeon, who has been toasted inside right-wing circles as a possible GOP savior, has suddenly been forced to defend his "trainwreck" interview where he likened marriage equality supporters to people advocating pedophilia and bestiality.
And just like that, Carson has gone from being Fox News' surefire rising star to a target of a widespread backlash. And just like that he's learned the Fox News embrace carries with it grave consequences and that hard-earned reputations can be tarnished in an instant.
Prior to his Fox News stint, Carson enjoyed a sterling reputation his work as a pediatric neurosurgeon. In recent days though, a colleague from John Hopkins told Media Matters that Carson's anti-gay comments made him look "nasty, petty and ill-informed," while students at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine requested that Carson be removed as this year's commencement speaker. (A guest on Hannity last night said Carson had "ruined his name" after Sean Hannity had worked so hard to elevate him.)
The surgeon's tumble from the Fox pedestal captures the cycle of futility that the cable channel has mastered in recent years in its never-ending pursuit to prop up challengers to President Obama. And it's never-ending pursuit to find a lazy shortcut for launching candidates. (Think: Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, and Herman Cain, among others.)
But not only did Carson badly stumble with his shocking comments about marriage equality, but as we've seen from this predictable model, he's also been turned into a professional victim by the right-wing media, whose practitioners like nothing better than ignoring substantive debates in order to complain about alleged biases in the press coverage. (All the while being careful not to actually repeat or explain what Carson's scandalous remarks were, of course.)
Cue Rush Limbaugh:
-"We are in the midst of mob rule now. In this case led by the trolls at Media Matters and aided and abetted by the so-called mainstream media."
-"Amidst all this talk of equality, Ben Carson is not allowed to voice his opinion."
From the April 1 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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From the March 29 edition of MSNBC's Martin Bashir:
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From the March 29 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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