Wednesday evening, Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson posted an “apology” on Facebook for his comments aired on CNN that morning suggesting that homosexuality is a choice because people turn gay in prison.
The apology, however, does not correct anything that he said, addressing only those who were hurt or offended. “I do not pretend to know how every individual came to their sexual orientation,” he wrote, reinforcing his belief that sexual orientation is chosen. “I regret that my words to express that concept were hurtful and divisive. For that I apologize unreservedly to all that were offended.”
Carson went on to reinforce his background in medicine, proclaiming, “There have been no definitive studies that people are born into a specific sexuality.” This is despite the fact that much of the research has found that — in the apparent complex mix of “nature” and “nurture” that seems to impact sexual orientation — the environmental effects take place inside the womb, before birth. Other studies have found that there are likely genetic components as well.
Regardless, Carson’s emphasis also ignores the experience of millions of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people who can testify to the unchanging and unintended nature of their sexuality. The American Psychological Association, while noting that sexual orientation is likely impacted by a variety of factors, still describes sexual orientation as an “enduring pattern” and has disavowed attempts to change orientation (ex-gay therapy) as ineffective and harmful, as have many other medical organizations. Alan Chambers, former president of the once expansive ex-gay ministry Exodus International, even rebuffed Carson’s claims, explaining, “Any behavior is a choice. Sexual orientation, however, is not a choice. In 20+ years of working w/ gay and lesbian people I’ve never met one person who chose to be gay.”
In his “apology,” Carson then asserted, “We do know, however, that we are always born male and female,” a comment that seems to erase both intersex and transgender people. Carson has not previously said much of anything about transgender people, but he has spoken before organizations like the Pacific Justice Institute, which has made demonizing transgender children one of its top priorities.
LGBT activists are panning the authenticity of Carson’s apology, especially given an interview he gave to Sean Hannity Wednesday afternoon — between when CNN aired his original comments and when he published his apology. In it, he claimed that CNN “chopped” his interview, suggesting there was somehow context missing from his original comments. Rather than provide the supposedly missing context, he told Hannity, “I simply have decided I’m not really going to talk about that issue anymore because every time I’m gaining momentum the liberal press says, ‘Let’s talk about gay rights.’ And I’m just not going to fall for that anymore.”
Moreover, the comment was not unusual for Carson, who has frequently lashed out at the gay community while arguing his opposition to same-sex marriage, as cataloged by RightWingWatch. He has called marriage equality a “Marxist plot,” described marriage equality supporters as “enemies of America,” called for any judge who rules for marriage equality to be removed from office, and most infamously, compared homosexuality to pedophilia and bestiality, another statement that led him to similarly “apologize” for his “poorly chosen words.”
In his Facebook post, Carson also claimed, “I am not a politician, and I answered a question without really thinking about it thoroughly.” Though not a politician, Carson announced just one day earlier that he has formed an exploratory committee to consider running for President in 2016.