Likely 2016 Republican presidential contender Dr. Ben Carson generated a lot of headlines after saying that being gay is “absolutely” a choice during an interview on Wednesday morning. In a conversation with CNN’s Chris Cuomo, the host and Carson were debating the similarities between the Civil Rights struggle of the 20th century, and the LGBT community’s current fight for equality.
During the discussion Carson said, “People have no control over their race, for instance.” Cuomo then asked, “You think they have control over their sexuality?”
“Absolutely,” Carson said without hesitation.
“You think being gay is a choice,” the host replied. “Absolutely,” Carson answered. When asked to explain his opinion, Carson said, “A lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight and when they come out, they’re gay.”
Appearing on Sean Hannity’s radio show later Wednesday, Carson claimed the CNN interview was chopped down significantly to emphasize his controversial comments about homosexuality.
Late Wednesday, Carson apologized on Facebook for his choice of words, but not for the content of what he 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 post reads.
The statement goes on to say, “Some of our brightest minds have looked at this debate, and up until this point there have been no definitive studies that people are born into a specific sexuality.”
This is far from the first time that Carson has courted controversy with things he’s said. Here’s a chronological look at five of his most eyebrow-raising remarks during his relatively short time in the political limelight.
1. Redefining marriage played a role in the “fall of the Roman Empire” - January 22, 2013
With the publication of his book, America the Beautiful, Carson was able to give his thoughts on a range of issues including marriage equality. Under a chapter entitled, “Freedom to Mind Our Own Business,” Carson wrote “if we can redefine marriage as between two men or two women or any other way based on social pressures as opposed to between a man and a woman… [that] is a slippery slope with a disastrous ending, as witnessed in the dramatic fall of the Roman Empire.”
Writing for Slate months later when Carson’s book got renewed attention, reporter Dave Weigel pointed out gay marriage had been named a “legal deviance” 100 years before the fall of Rome.
2. No one can redefine marriage, “be they gays, be they NAMBLA…” - March 26, 2013
While appearing on the FOX News Channel in late March of 2013, Carson was asked about impending Supreme Court action on marriage equality. Carson stated he believes that marriage is “between a man and a woman” before adding that no one can change the definition of marriage, “be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality.”
Appearing later that week on msnbc, Carson told Andrea Mitchell that “if anyone was offended, I apologize.” The neurosurgeon said his intent was not to equate the gay community with pedophiles or those who practice bestiality.
“If you ask me for an apple and I give you an orange you would say, that’s not an orange,” Carson explained. “And I say, that’s a banana. And that’s not an apple either. Or a peach, that’s not an apple, either. It doesn’t mean that I’m equating the banana and the orange and the peach. In the same way I’m not equating those things.”
The controversy around these remarks eventually led to Carson stepping down as the commencement speaker at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
3. Obamacare is “worst thing” to happen to America since slavery - November 11, 2013
Speaking at the Value Voter Summit in November of 2013, Carson said to applause that “Obamacare is really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.” He continued his analogy saying that the Affordable Care Act was “making all of us subservient to the government.”
Carson said the law was never about health care but was instead about control likening the Obama administration’s health care law to the tactics of Soviet Russia.
4. The United States is “very much like Nazi Germany” - March 12, 2014
In Spring of 2014, Carson made more headlines for an interview he gave to Breitbart News. Carson was asked a question about his claim Americans are living in a “gestapo age.”
“Very much like Nazi Germany - and I know you’re not supposed to talk about Nazi Germany but I don’t care about political correctness - you had a government using its tools to intimidate a population,” Carson answered. “We now live in a society where people are afraid to say what they actually believe.”
Carson blamed this on the “PC police,” politicians and the media. Carson claimed “a horrible schism” is being created that is threatening to “destroy our nation if we don’t fix it.”
5. Obamacare is worse than 9/11… except it isn’t - June 5, 2014
Fast forward to summer of 2014, Ben Carson is giving an interview to The Daily Beast. The reporter questioned Carson about his claim that Obamacare is “the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery,” and asked: how is Obamacare worse than 9/11?
Carson explained Obamacare is worse “because 9/11 is an isolated event,” in audio published along with the The Daily Beast article. The reporter then asks what caused families more pain: Obamacare or Osama bin Laden?
“Things that are isolated issues as opposed to things that fundamentally change the United States of America and shift power from the people to the government,” Carson told The Daily Beast. “That is a huge shift.”
When pressed again about his stance, Carson can be heard saying on the audio recording, “You have to take a long-term look at the ascent of something that fundamentally changes the power structure in America.”
The very next day, Carson issued a statement saying, “I don’t think Obamacare is worse than 9/11. The two things aren’t comparable and I never intended to compare them.”