Dr. Ben Carson announced Wednesday that he is withdrawing as graduation speaker at Johns Hopkins University, ceding to demands from students concerned about his controversial recent comments about gay 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 said in an e-mail to the dean of the Johns Hopkins medical school, Paul Rothman. "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."
Carson in a TV interview two weeks ago mentioned bestiality and pedophilia while arguing against gay marriage.
“[Traditional marriage is] 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,” Carson said in the Fox News interview, referring to the North American Man/Boy Love Association, which seeks to overturn pedophilia laws.
He later apologized for those comments, and Rothman issued a statement labeling them offensive. Meanwhile, students petitioned to have him removed as commencement speaker.
But even in bowing out, Carson struck a defiant tone, saying he is the victim of the brand of political correctness he has spoken out against in recent months and used to build a political brand for himself.
"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," Carson said in his e-mail.
Carson has earned some presidential buzz among conservatives since delivering a speech critical of President Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast earlier this year.
He announced at the Conservative Political Action Conference last month that he will be retiring from his post as head of the Johns Hopkins Department of Pediatric Neurosurgery later this year.