During last night's presidential debate, current Republican front-runner Ben Carson argued that his opposition to marriage equality doesn't make him homophobic. But his long list of other antigay positions certainly earns the former neurosurgeon such a moniker.
In the business-focused debate hosted by CNBC on the University of Colorado at Boulder's campus, Carson was asked about his service on the board of Costco, rated one of the most gay-friendly companies in the nation, and how that squares with his well-documented opposition to legal equality for LGBT Americans.
"Obviously you don’t understand my views on homosexuality," Carson replied. "I believe our Constitution protects everybody regardless of their sexual orientation or any other aspect. I also believe marriage is between one man and one woman. There is no reason you can’t be perfectly fair to the gay community."
"They shouldn’t automatically assume that because you believe that marriage is between one man and one woman that you are a homophobe. This is one of the myths that the left perpetrates on our society and this is how they frighten people and get people to shut up. That’s what the P.C. culture is all about and it’s destroying this nation."
While Carson claims those who think he's antigay misunderstand his views on homosexuality, his long history of questionable — and often, outright offensive — statements about LGBT people make it difficult to arrive at any other conclusion.
In the interest of fact-checking Carson's claims, here is a preliminary accounting of Carson's beliefs, in his own words, that apparently do not qualify as homophobic in the retired neurosurgeon's mind:
Carson has frequently advanced this red herring, most recently on October 13, when he told conservative radio host Eric Metaxas that he has "nothing against gay people whatsoever." But he would still like to overturn the Supreme Court's June ruling establishing nationwide marriage equality.
"The natural next question" after equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, Carson said, is opening up marriage to more than two partners. He elaborated:
"Effectively what it does is it takes away from the tradition of family we've known for thousands of years, but also it negates an important part of the word of God. And if you can do that with one part of the word of God, you can do it with the rest of it too. Toss the whole thing in the garbage."
Earlier this month, Carson again trotted out his complaint about the "P.C. police" in an interview on Sirius XM radio, where he lamented a culture that declares, wrongly in his belief, that "every lifestyle is of equal value."
"We’ve got to stop paying attention to the P.C. police who say every lifestyle is exactly of the same value. No, it’s not of the same value. It is very clear that intact, traditional families with traditional, intact values do much better in terms of raising children. So let’s stop pretending that everything is of equal value."
"We need to face the fact that when young girls have babies out of wedlock, most of the time their education ends with that first baby. And those babies are four times as likely to grow up in poverty, end up in the penal system or the welfare system. You know, I’m not making this stuff up. That’s well-documented. That’s a problem."
In March, Carson told CNN's Chris Cuomo that being gay is "absolutely" a choice, because “A lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight — and when they come out, they’re gay,” Carson said. “So did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question.”
Carson eventually apologized for those remarks — sort of. As ThinkProgress notes, in a statement on Facebook, Carson didn't apologize for his problematic statement, only for what he characterized as a poor choice of words. He then went on to effectively dismiss the existence of intersex and transgender people, citing his medical background to definitively claim, "We do know, however, that we are always born male or female." Read his entire statement below:
Just one day after announcing his presidential campaign in May, the former neurosurgeon found himself on the spot about constitutional limits to presidential power.
“We have to understand how the Constitution works — the president is required to carry out the laws of the land, the laws of the land come from the legislative branch,” Carson told right-wing outlet Newsmax TV. “So if the legislative branch creates a law or changes a law, the executive branch has a responsibly to carry it out. It doesn’t say they have the responsibility to carry out a judicial law.”
The president is part of the executive branch, and it is made clear on that branch’s website that Carson is incorrect. According to Article III of the U.S. Constitution, “Congress determines the jurisdiction of the federal courts. In some cases, however — such as in the example of a dispute between two or more U.S. states — the Constitution grants the Supreme Court original jurisdiction, an authority that cannot be stripped by Congress … it is the final judicial arbiter in the United States on matters of federal law.”
In an interview on Fox News Sunday shortly after those initial remarks, Carson again (incorrectly) claimed that it's "an open question" as to whether the president must abide by rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court.
Earlier in the year, Carson was among a cluster of right-wing pundits who, in advance of the Supreme Court's landmark ruling for marriage equality, touted supposed mechanisms to override the court's verdict, including removing sitting justices.
"What the president and what the Supreme Court need to reiterate is that the states have a mechanism whereby they can determine the will of the people, it’s called ballot referendum," Carson told right-wing radio host Steve Deace."It has been done multiple times already, 32 states have indicated that marriage is between a man and a woman, and a few judges have come and overturned that. That, as far as I’m concerned, is unconstitutional, and Congress actually has oversight of all what they call the inferior courts, everything below the Supreme Court, and that’s where those overturns have come. And when judges do not carry out their duties in an appropriate way, our Congress actually has the right to reprimand or remove them."
Carson fell in line with his Republican rivals backing the controversial "right to discriminate" legislation signed earlier this year (and subsequently amended) by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
"It is absolutely vital that we do all we can to allow Americans to practice their religious ways, while simultaneously ensuring that no one’s beliefs infringe upon those of others," Carson told right-wing website Breitbart in response to the Indiana backlash. "We should also serve as champions of freedom of religion throughout the world. … As Americans, we have an obligation to denounce these acts of persecution. For when we stand up to such intolerance, we are defending the root of our freedom, both at home and abroad."
But even before Indiana's RFRA and a similar bill in Arkansas made headlines last spring, Carson demonstrated his support for antigay businesses.
In January, he made a tone-deaf "joke" claiming that same-sex couples should not ask antigay bakers to serve their weddings, since those bakers might try to poison the same-sex couples seeking their services.
"What I have a problem with is when people try to force people to act against their beliefs because they say ‘They’re discriminating against me,'" Carson said at the right-wing gathering known as the Iowa Freedom Summit. “So they can go right down the street and buy a cake, but no, let’s bring a suit against this person because I want them to make my cake even though they don’t believe in it. Which is really not all that smart because they might put poison in that cake.”
Carson later told Fox News that those who took offense at his joke — which seemed to advocate poisoning same-sex couples who expect bakeries open to the public to serve the public equally — were being "immature."
Not only has Carson defended defiant antigay Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, he's one of just four presidential candidates to sign the antigay National Organization for Marriage's pledge, notes ThinkProgress. (The others are Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, according to CNN.)
This year's pledge asks that candidates support a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman; oppose and work to overturn the Supreme Court decision for marriage equality; review and reverse Obama administration policies that provide federal government recognition to same-sex marriages; support the First Amendment Defense Act, a bill that would allow businesses and individuals with religious objections to marriage equality to discriminate against same-sex couples without repercussions; and direct the Department of Justice to investigate cases of people being “harassed or threatened” for opposing marriage equality.
In an interview with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly last month, Carson argued that marriage equality supporters (including a majority of the Supreme Court) are trying to "force" their views on Davis, who was elected to serve the public of Rowan County, Ky., reports Right Wing Watch.
“I don’t actually believe that they have the right to force their way of life upon everybody else, nor would I want to force my way of life upon everybody else,” Carson told Kelly, before arguing that a hypothetical Muslim county clerk could not justifiably deny service to Christians. "This is a Judeo-Christian nation in the sense that a lot of our values and principles are based on our Judeo-Christian faith."
Although Carson first appeared on mainline conservatives' radar in 2013 after blasting President Obama's health care and tax reform policies at the President's National Prayer Breakfast, he promptly used that notoriety to equate homosexuality to bestiality and pedophilia.
In an interview with Fox News anchor Sean Hannity, Carson argued that (heterosexual) marriage is “a well-established, fundamental pillar of society and no group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality” gets “to change the definition.” NAMBLA, by the way, is the North American Man/Boy Love Association, a group endorsing pedophilia.
That false comparison resulted in students at Johns Hopkins University, where Carson was a faculty member, protesting his invitation to speak at the 2013 graduation ceremony.
Carson eventually issued a pseudo-apology, saying he was sorry to anyone who was offended by his statements equating supporters of equal marriage rights with those supporting pedophilia. He also eventually withdrew from the Johns Hopkins commencement, predictably playing the victim and claiming he had been silenced by a culture of "political correctness."
Should anyone need proof of Carson's stance on human sexuality, in a book he published in 1999, Carson declared that homosexuality was a sin "comparable to murder and cheating," according to Salon.