Dr. Ben Carson said being gay is “absolutely” a choice, just hours after launching an exploratory committee for 2016.
The renowned neurosurgeon-turned-conservative-celebrity said prisons prove this theory, in an interview with CNN that aired on Wednesday morning. “A lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight – and when they come out, they’re gay. So, did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question,” he said.
Carson’s hard-right politics and bold stances like this have made him a darling of the far right. His stance on gay marriage isn’t new (previously he’s aligned homosexuality with bestiality, pedophilia and murder) but it highlights why his presidential ambitions put the GOP in such a pickle: With a majority of Americans supporting gay marriage, fielding a Republican candidate who is so blatantly hostile to homosexuality is a great way to send swing voters packing.
“Candidates who would like to see the inside of the West Wing,” GOP strategist Juleana Glover told msnbc previously, “are gonna find a way to be more inclusive on the issue of marriage.”
Carson’s views on homosexuality have gotten him in trouble in the past: in 2013, he was forced to cancel a commencement speech at Johns Hopkins–the school where he worked as a pediatric neurosurgeon–and apologize for remarks about gay people.
But Carson seems unafraid of the outrage his remarks garner: he routinely promises not to bow to the “P.C. police” and told msnbc in an interview last month that “candor in the long run is one of the few things that can save our nation.”
Carson first erupted on the conservative political scene in 2013, when he lectured the president on debt and Obamacare at a National Prayer Breakfast, with the president sitting just two seats away. The clip went viral on YouTube, and Carson’s previously sluggish book sales skyrocketed. He was quickly picked up by Fox News as a contributor and his political profile grew rapidly. A super PAC, the National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee, formed shortly after and they’ve already raised $15 million towards building a grassroots base for a potential bid by the retired doctor.
Two years later, his latest book debuted on the top of the New York Times’ bestseller list and he recently tied for sixth place in Gallup’s survey for the most admired man in America.
Despite his views that homosexuality is a destructive choice, Carson did seem to voice support for civil unions in the CNN interview, taking a libertarian spin on the issue.
“Why do gay people want to get married? Why do they say they want to get married? Because they want to have various rights – property rights, visitation rights,” he said. “Why can’t any two human beings, I don’t care what their sexual orientation is, why can’t they have the legal right to do those things? That does not require changing the definition of marriage.”