For years he was known as the doctor with the “Gifted Hands,” a man who pulled himself up from humble beginnings in Detroit to become one of the most noted neurosurgeons in the country. He was sought as a public speaker and created a fund to push excellence for bright young scholars.
But it was not his hands, but his mouth that is currently bringing attention to Carson and his words nearly scuttled a planned appearance as commencement speaker at Johns Hopkins next month.
The longtime figure in the Johns Hopkins University community was criticized by students and faculty after he made a controversial comment about gay marriage on FOX News’ “The Sean Hannity Show.”
On the show, Carson said 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.”
The speech triggered a storm of criticism from students and faculty at Johns Hopkins University even sparking a petition among medical students to withdraw the commencement speech invitation.
In the petition, students describe Carson as “a world-class neurosurgeon and passionate advocate for education,” but that he “expressed values that are incongruous with the values of Johns Hopkins and deeply offensive to a large proportion our student body.”
The chorus of criticism has surfaced in the social media online arena.
On March 28 Baltimore-born Atlantic Magazine Senior Editor Ta-Nehisi Coates said on Twitter, “Just watched Ben Carson play himself. Sad. Dude is a hero in Baltimore. Was one of those dudes always talking to black youth.”
Radio personality Jeff Johnson penned a status on Facebook urging people not to slander the works of Carson because of his political views.
“Family. Please don't let Dr. Ben Carson's politics allow ANYONE to make him less black, less amazing, or less brilliant.,” wrote Johnson. “I am so tired of people who have little concern for the black community using the honest positions of our brothers and sisters for their own selfish pseudo-political campaigns (on both sides of the political spectrum).”
@enfynty said in a reply to @instenseCA, “Great clip but really disappointed to learn what Ben Carson thinks of marriage equality. Wouldn't want him @ my commencement.”
In an MSNBC interview March 26 anchor Andrea Mitchell asked if he was prepared to withdraw from the speaking engagement with the pending push back from students. He replied he is prepared to rescind his invitation as commencement speaker.
"Absolutely. I would say this is their day and the last thing I would want to do is rain on their parade," Carson replied.
The flap comes as Carson’s political star is rising, especially among Republicans who have talked about the surgeon as a possible 2016 GOP presidential nominee.
His ascendency began Feb. 7, when Carson delivered a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, with President Obama present, criticizing the Obama administration’s position on taxes, health care and the deficit.
In March 2013, Carson drew waves of support in the GOP after a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Carson said the likelihood of him running for president is small.
“If a year and a half goes by, and people are still clamoring for me to do that, and there’s no other very good candidate, I would certainly have to seriously consider it,” said Carson in the interview
Carson continued, “the likelihood of that is incredibly small. So I’m not really planning on that.”