Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson reportedly made some comments about safety concerns in homeless women’s shelters last week that some interpreted as “dismissive” of transgender people — and the media was all over it.
As the story snowballed, Democrats jumped on the bandwagon and began demanding his resignation. Carson has issued a statement defending and explaining his comments.
Identity Politics Run Amok
Carson’s comments, which critics labeled as transphobic, came during an internal meeting while visiting HUD’s San Francisco office.
According to several shocked staffers who spoke to the Washington Post, Carson told HUD staff that women were concerned about “big hairy men” calling themselves women being given access to women’s shelters. The staffers felt the comments were insulting to transgender people.
Democrats like Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA) wasted no time in demanding Carson’s firing.
Sickening. Ben Carson shouldn’t even be given the chance to resign. He should be fired tonight. https://t.co/8UoXdSs623
— Rep. Joe Kennedy III (@RepJoeKennedy) September 19, 2019
Carson’s “bigotry is putting lives in danger. He needs to resign,” said Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA).
Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Julian Castro also piled on the criticism. “Ben Carson’s derogatory remarks are harmful to the LGBTQ+ community and just downright cruel,” Harris tweeted.
California Governor Gavin Newsom tweeted, “This is sick. We cannot allow this kind of behavior to be normalized.”
Carson defends his comments
In his own defense, Carson clarified that the words were not his own — he was simply repeating comments he had heard from women in the shelters to HUD staff.
“I simply pointed out the fact that, you know, we have to have policies that take into consideration everybody’s rights. I say everybody has equal rights; nobody gets extra rights,” Carson said during a Friday night appearance on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”
In a letter published by the Washington Post, Carson further reiterated his defense:
During a recent meeting with local staff in San Francisco, I made reference to the fact that I had heard from many women’s groups about the difficulty they were having with women’s shelters because sometimes men would claim to be women, and that HUD’s policy required the shelter to accept — without question — the word of whoever came in, regardless of what their manifested physical characteristics appeared to be.This made many of the women feel unsafe, and one of the groups described a situation to me in which ‘big hairy men’ would come in and have to be accepted into the women’s shelter even though it made the women in the facility very uncomfortable. My point was that we have to permit policies that take into consideration the rights of everybody, including those women — many of which have suffered at the hands of male domestic abusers — who believe there are men who might hurt them.
In a statement Friday, HUD spokeswoman said that Carson would “continue to make sure everyone is guaranteed equal rights — not given extra rights. He does not believe any one group deserves to be treated better or worse than any other group. It’s a sad state of affairs when staff tasked with serving the public would attempt to twist his words in order to politically grandstand.”