Dr. Ben Carson, a Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon, said Wednesday evening that he would step down as commencement speaker for the School of Medicine after his incendiary comments opposing gay marriage drew outrage from students and faculty.
"Given all the national media surrounding my statements as to my belief in traditional marriage, I believe it would be in the best interest of the students for me to voluntarily withdraw as your commencement speaker this year," he wrote in an email to Dean Paul Rothman shared with the school.
Carson compared gay marriage to bestiality and pedophilia in a recent Fox News appearance. "My thoughts are that marriage is between a man and a woman," he said. "It’s 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."
After Carson made his comments, a majority of graduating students signed a petition stating that he was an inappropriate choice for speaker.
Carson apologized last week for the fallout from his comments in an email sent to the Hopkins community. "As you know, I have been in the national news quite a bit recently and my 36-year association with Johns Hopkins has unfortunately dragged our institution into the spotlight as well," he wrote. "I am sorry for any embarrassment this has caused."
Rothman sent an email affirming Carson's right to speak as a private citizen but noting that his recent comments were inconsistent with school values.
A celebrated neurosurgeon and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Carson recently became a conservative hero for criticizing President Barack Obama to his face at the National Prayer Breakfast in February.