The dean overseeing Johns Hopkins University Medical School said Friday that controversial comments made by faculty member Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon and outspoken conservative, went against the "core values" of the school.
This follows remarks last week by Carson which some saw as equating homosexuality with criminal acts of pedophilia and bestiality. He would later say he apologized "if he offended anyone." The Johns Hopkins Dean said a Monday meeting with students would be held regarding whether to keep Carson as this year's commencement speaker.
Dr. Paul Rothman defended Carson's right to make the comments, which were made in a recent television appearance and not associated with his responsibilities at the school, but said "we recognize that tension now exists in our community because hurtful, offensive language was used."
"Dr. Carson is well known for his accomplishments as a neurosurgeon and for his contributions to the Baltimore community," Rothman wrote. "While his recent comments are inconsistent with our core values, Dr. Carson has the right to participate in public debates and media interviews and express his personal opinions on political, social and religious issues. We strongly value freedom of expression and affirm Dr. Carson's right, as a private citizen, to state his personal views."
In an appearance last week on Fox News, Carson was asked about the recent Supreme Court oral arguments over same-sex marriage and said, "My thoughts are that marriage is between a man and a woman."
"It's a well-established, fundamental pillar of society and no group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA [pedophilia], be they people who believe in bestiality. It doesn't matter what they are. They don't get to change the definition," he said.
Carson attempted to clean up the controversy he sparked in an appearance on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer."
"I love gay people. I love straight people. So this was really, I think, on my behalf, somewhat insensitive and I certainly apologize if I offended anyone, because I was not in any way comparing gays with people who engage in bestiality or sexual child abuse," he said.
New York Magazine reported Friday that Carson followed Rothman's email with an apology to the school community.
"I am sorry for any embarrassment this has caused," he said. "But what really saddens me is that my poorly chosen words caused pain for some members of our community and for that I offer a most sincere and heartfelt apology.
"Hurting others is diametrically opposed to who I am and what I believe. There are many lessons to be learned when venturing into the political world and this is one I will not forget," he said. "Although I do believe marriage is between a man and a woman, there are much less offensive ways to make that point. I hope all will look at a lifetime of service over some poorly chosen words."
Some students at the school have called for him to be removed as their commencement speaker because of the remarks, and Carson said on CNN "If they don't want me to, if it's going to cause problems for them, I will be happy to withdraw."
Carson rocketed into the political spotlight this year after criticizing Democratic positions at the National Prayer Breakfast in President Barack Obama's presence.