David Zurawik

Dr. Ben Carson's TV remarks on gay marriage come under fire at Johns Hopkins

The TV remarks about gay marriage that Johns Hopkins surgeon Dr. Benjamin Carson made this week on Fox News were denounced Thursday by a faculty colleague who directs a university program on sexuality and gender.

"We have been trying to have an open discussion about this issue, and obviously we support his right to free speech," Todd Shepard, co-director of the school's Program for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, told The Sun Thursday night. "But what he said is not about opening up discussion, it's about shutting it down by scaring people."


In an interview Tuesday night, Fox host Sean Hannity asked Carson for his thoughts on same-sex marriage.

Here's the part of Carson's response that has come under fire: "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."


The comparison of gays to members of the North American Boy/Man Love Association and those who engage in bestiality has set off a backlash of criticism in the media, online and now on campus.

In a written statement sent Thursday to Media Matters, a liberal media watchdog organization, Shepard said Carson's comments to Hannity make the famed surgeon "look nasty, petty, and ill-informed."

Shepard, an associate professor in the Department of History, further described Carson as "...insulting, offhand, and ill-informed in the comparison he makes to bestiality, Nambla, etc. Half-baked history and insults, then, are where he wants to stake his tent."

That is not mainstream thinking, Shepard asserts.

"The vast majority of Americans are open to judging this question of equal rights to marry on the basis of the evidence, in a process of open discussion," he said in his statement to Media Matters. "As they've seen the evidence, most have moved away from the hysterical and de-humanizing arguments to which Dr. Carson still clings. He is welcome to put them out there. I and others can now judge him on those statements. It makes him look bad. But such reactionary and rancid claims do remind us of how far the general discussion has advanced beyond Dr. Carson and his far-right audience."

Attempts to reach Carson Thursday night were unsuccessful.

Stay tuned as I try to confirm other reports of criticism and condemnation among other members of faculty and staff at Johns Hopkins for Carson's remarks.

Here's a link to Media Matter's full release.