Neurosurgeon Ben Carson announced his withdrawal as speaker at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine commencement Wednesday.
In an e-mail to Paul Rothman, the dean of the Baltimore-based medical school, Carson, a retiring Hopkins surgeon, explained that his speaking at commencement would be a distraction, given his recent statements in support of traditional marriage.
“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 wrote in an email, quoted at CNN. “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 added.
Carson received negative attention in recent weeks for comments he made on Fox News to host Sean Hannity.
“Well, my thoughts are that marriage is between a man and a woman,” Carson told Hannity. “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.”
In February, Carson’s populist comments and strong defense of free markets before President Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast led some Hopkins students and faculty to petition against his commencement speakership.
Carson later apologized for and elaborated on his comments on Fox News to CNN’s 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.
Carson expressed his willingness to withdraw late last month on MSNBC.
“I would say that this is their day, and the last thing I would want to do is rain on their parade,” Carson explained to host Andrea Mitchell.
Rothman last week criticized Carson’s statements as “hurtful” but had not asked he step down, according to The Baltimore Sun, which further reported Carson’s withdrawal as speaker for the Johns Hopkins University School of Education diploma ceremony.
The Sun reports that new speakers have yet to be selected.