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Ben Carson doubles down after criticism over transgender comments

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Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Ben Carson sent an email to staff on Friday saying that recent media attention to his comments concerning transgender people were “mischaracterizations.”

Carson reportedly horrified staff members during a Tuesday meeting of approximately 50 people in San Francisco when he suggested that “big, hairy men” were trying to “infiltrate” women’s shelters, causing at least one staffer to walk out of the room. The Washington Post reports that Carson has a pattern of dismissing transgender people, previously suggesting that the country no longer knows the difference between men and women.

The former 2016 Republican presidential candidate has also supported banning transgender people from serving in the military, and said that no one group deserves “special rights,” in response to LGBT rights pushes.

In his agency-wide email sent on Friday, obtained by the Post, Carson doubled down in saying that women’s groups have approached him with concerns that men can enter women’s shelters if they say they are women, “regardless of what their manifested physical characteristics appeared to be.”

Skye Gould/Business Insider

Carson said that makes women, especially those who “have suffered at the hands of male domestic abusers,” feel unsafe. He said those statements were not hateful toward transgender people, and said his point was that consideration be given to the rights of “everybody.”

“Our society is in danger when we pick one issue (such as gender identity) and say it does not matter how it impacts others because this one issue should override every other common-sense consideration,” Carson wrote in the email. “I think we have to look out for everyone, and we need to use our intellectual capabilities to find common good rather than attempting to always stir up controversy through identity politics.”

Read more: HUD Secretary Ben Carson ridiculed transgender women as ‘big, hairy men’ trying to infiltrate women’s shelters, leaving staffers horrified

Sources inside the department told the Post that Carson decided to write the email once he learned that staffers were upset by the incident and its media coverage. Some Democrats have called for his resignation, including Representative Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts, who announced his Senate run Saturday, and Jennifer Wexton of Virginia.

HUD staffers were apparently unimpressed with the email, with one telling the Post that it “put salt in the wound, because this description of transgender people is offensive.” Another said adopting a policy of prioritizing someone’s comfort over another person’s right to shelter was bigoted, and said the idea that cisgender men pretend to be transgender women to attack cisgender women is “frankly ludicrous.”

In May, the agency introduced a proposal that would allow federally funded shelters to deny people admission on religious grounds and force transgender women to share bathrooms and sleeping quarters with men.

On Friday, HUD spokeswoman Caroline Vanvick said in a statement 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.”

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