Dalila Ali Rajah
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Presidential Hopeful Ben Carson Is an 'Extremist,' Says Civil Rights Group

Presidential Hopeful Ben Carson Is an 'Extremist,' Says Civil Rights Group

The Southern Poverty Law Center has added former neurosurgeon and right-wing darling Ben Carson to its roster of anti-LGBT extremists, making him the only possible 2016 presidential contender included on the list. 

"Carson’s own story as an 'up by the bootstraps' black man reared in poverty translated into an inspiring, magnetic narrative that captured media attention," reads SPLC's profile on Carson. "A movement to draft Carson as a presidential candidate took off in 2014, raising more than $7 million by June, according to its website. Carson has coyly declined to say whether he would run as a Republican or on a third-party ticket, but media interviews suggest that he is increasingly willing to run on some ticket."

Carson is one of the newest additions to SPLC's Extremist Files, along with other prominent anti-LGBT activists who have long held sway on the list like Family Research Council leader Tony Perkins, Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps, and failed Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate and evangelical preacher Scott Lively, who is currently facing an international lawsuit alleging crimes against humanity for his involvement in convincing Ugandan lawmakers to pass the country's infamous "Jail the Gays" bill. 

Carson's inclusion on the progressive group's list of anti-LGBT hate-mongers is well-earned. After rising to prominence for publicly scolding Barack Obama's healthcare and tax reform policies at the President's National Prayer Breakfast in early 2013, Carson used his right-wing notoriety to equate marriage equality with pedophilia and bestiality, a false comparison that resulted in students at Johns Hopkins University, where Carson is a faculty member, protesting his invitation to speak at the 2013 graduation ceremony. Although Carson tepidly backtracked on his marriage equality-pedophilia comparison, he ultimately withdrew from the commencement, but only while playing the victim and claiming he had been silenced by a culture of "political correctness."

Carson frequently cites his Christian faith when backtracking on anti-LGBT comments, and the news of his appointment to SPLC's Extremist Files was no different. 

"When embracing traditional Christian values is equated to hatred, we are approaching the stage where wrong is called right and right is called wrong," Carson told conservative media outlet Breitbart, according to The Huffington Post. "It is important for us to once again advocate true tolerance. That means being respectful of those with whom we disagree and allowing people to live according to their values without harassment."

Last year, Carson said that marriage equality was an "extra right," claiming that "of course" he believed gay and lesbian Americans should have the same rights as straight Americans, "but they don't get extra rights, they don't get to redefine marriage." 

Most recently, Carson made a tone-deaf "joke" claiming that same-sex couples should not ask antigay bakeries to serve their weddings, since "they might put poison in that cake." The remark, made in January at the right-wing gathering known as the Iowa Freedom Summit, was met with "chuckles from some of [Carson's] staff and dead silence from the journalists in the room," reported The Hill. 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."

In late January, Carson was among a select group of GOP and right-wing politicos and pundits who claimed that judges who ruled in favor of marriage equality should be removed from office, or that officials in states with marriage equality by judicial fiat should just ignore those federal court orders.

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