Ordinarily, when a political figure makes the transition from credible, mainstream voice to cover-your-eyes crank, the shift is gradual and takes years (cough, Rudy Giuliani, cough). But in the case of right-wing neurosurgeon Ben Carson, the shift was much quicker.
In fact, it happened quite suddenly two years ago, when Carson compared gay people to “NAMBLA [and] people who believe in bestiality.” After initially flubbing an apology and blaming critics for quoting him accurately, the Republican personality eventually walked back his comments. Carson’s reputation hasn’t been the same since.
Two years later, his anti-gay attitudes are still tripping him up. CNN aired an interview with Carson yesterday in which he said homosexuality is “absolutely” a choice. As proof, the likely Republican presidential candidate added, “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.”
After initially telling Sean Hannity that his comments were CNN’s fault, Carson eventually apologized via Facebook.
“In a recent interview on CNN, I realized that my choice of language does not reflect fully my heart on gay issues,” the statement begins, continuing, “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.” […]“No excuses. I deeply regret my statement and I promise you, on this journey, I may err again, but unlike politicians when I make an error I will take full responsibility and never hide or parse words.”
This attempt at taking responsibility would have been more compelling if (a) Carson didn’t have an ugly track record on LGBT issues; and (b) hadn’t tried to blame CNN a few hours earlier.
But taking one step further, I’m curious about a related angle: how does Carson decide which of his outrageous comments warrant an apology?
To be sure, I’m glad the right-wing neurosurgeon eventually apologized yesterday for comments that were both offensive and factually ridiculous. But the fact remains that Carson makes offensive and factually ridiculous comments all the time.
Carson recently endorsed the idea of Americans committing war crimes. He’s equated modern American life with Nazi Germany. He’s said health care reform is the worst thing to happen in the United States since slavery. During the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, Carson said political correctness contributed to Michael Brown’s death, blamed “the women’s lib movement” for violence in the streets, and said those who protested the Ferguson shooting reminded him of Hamas.
Soon after, reflecting on the controversies surrounding his over-the-top language, Carson told Republican National Committee members, “I stand by those” remarks, adding. “I don’t think there’s anything crazy at all.”
“I may err again”? Count on it.