One day after media outlets reported on Ben Carson’s latest episode of making disparaging remarks towards transgender people, the Housing and Urban Development Secretary sent an email to his agency staffers to explain his controversial comments.
On Thursday, The Washington Post reported on a series of remarks made by Carson, saying that the former neurosurgeon repeatedly mocks transgender women.
The Post reported on comments made by the HUD secretary in a recent trip California, which shocked and upset many of near 50 staffers who were present, and led to at least one woman to walk out of the meeting in protest.
In a visit to the HUD office in San Francisco on Tuesday, the agency’s no. 1 official expressed concern about the risk posed by “big, hairy men” to infiltrate women’s homeless shelters. He was referring to transgender women.
He also lamented that society no longer knows the difference between men and women, according to two of the agency staffers, as reported by the newspaper.
Besides upsetting his own staff, the remarks also prompted some Democrats to call for his resignation.
U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton, a Democrat from Virginia called the remarks “revolting,” according to The Hill.
“These comments only affirm that his recent efforts to erase the Equal Access Rule are rooted in ignorance, not sound policy. By allowing shelters to discriminate against transgender Americans, the Secretary is putting lives in danger," she said.
On Friday, Carson sent out an agency-wide email explaining his position and denied making “hateful statements toward the transgender population.”
However, if his goal was to apologize for any misunderstanding, the message didn’t seem to reach its intended target.
In the email, Carson used an anti-transgender concept widely used by the religious right, which claims that “sometimes men would claim to be women” to invade women’s private spaces.
He also repeated — and justified — the use of “big hairy men” when referring to transgender women.
“When blatant mischaracterizations of what I have said are circulated in an irresponsible way,” he wrote, “I feel it is important to set the record straight.”
Straight or not, Carson’s explanation fell flat.
A HUD staffer told The Washington Post that the email “put salt in the wound, because this description of transgender people is offensive," while another said that the comments can perpetuate anti-transgender sentiments. "Suggesting the department should adopt a policy that prioritizes someone’s discomfort over another person’s right to shelter validates bigoted ideas about transgender women and the frankly ludicrous idea that ‘big, hairy men’ pretend to be women in order to harm cisgender women,” the person said.