Potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson apologized Wednesday for saying that prisons prove that being gay is a choice.
Carson made the controversial remarks in an interview with CNN earlier in the day.
"Because a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight -- and when they come out, they're gay," Carson said. "So, did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question."
In a statement to CNN, Carson walked back his assertion.
"I realized that my choice of language does not reflect fully my heart on gay issues," Carson said. "I do not pretend to know how every individual came to their sexual orientation. I regret that my words to express that concept were hurtful and divisive. For that I apologize unreservedly to all that were offended."
The American Psychological Association notes that while there is "there is no consensus among scientists" on how sexual orientation develops, few individuals experience a "sense of choice" on the matter.
"Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors," the APA says. "Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation."
Carson's remarks came one day after he launched an exploratory committee to raise funds ahead of a potential 2016 presidential bid. He finished fourth in last week's straw poll of likely GOP candidates at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference near Washington, D.C.
In 2013, Carson withdrew as the commencement speaker at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine after comparing homosexuality to bestiality and pedophilia. Carson also issued an apology for his "poorly chosen" remarks.
In the Wednesday statement to CNN, Carson said he supports gay rights as well as the right of states to decide whether or not to legalize gay marriage, but that "judges and government must not be allowed to restrict religious beliefs."