Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson said Tuesday that political correctness is “going to destroy our nation,” when pressed by a Democratic lawmaker to apologize for comments he reportedly made at a meeting in September.
At a House Financial Services Committee hearing on housing policy, Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton of Virginia said she wanted to give Carson a chance to apologize for comments made during a meeting last month with department staff in which he expressed concern about “big, hairy men” attempting to enter women’s homeless shelters. The comments, reported by The Washington Post, were interpreted by three people present as an attack on transgender people, the paper said.
Two agency staffers also told the Post that during the meeting in HUD’s San Francisco office, Carson complained about the blurring of gender roles, a refrain that upset many staffers.
“First of all, I didn’t describe transgender women that way,” Carson said Tuesday.
“I was relating a story that a women’s group told me about big, hairy men — who are not transgender women, by the way — coming into your facility and having to be accepted because of the rules that were in place,” he continued.
Carson said he could not remember the name of the women’s group but that they were from Alaska.
When Wexton pressed on whether he felt a need to apologize, Carson replied no.
“No, I think this whole concept of political correctness — you can say this, you can’t say that, you can’t repeat what someone said — it’s total foolishness, and it’s going to destroy our nation and we need to be more mature than that,” Carson added.
A senior HUD official told the Post in September that “the Secretary does not use derogatory language to refer to transgendered individuals. Any reporting to the contrary is false.” The official added that Carson was referring to men who pretend to be women in order to get into shelters for women who are victims of domestic violence, not transgender people.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development is considering a new rule that would allow federally funded homeless shelters to consider sex and gender identity when deciding whether to accommodate someone. Wexton has introduced legislation that would block the rule.