Ben Carson did not mean to offend.
One day after forming an exploratory committee to help him decide whether to run for president in 2016, Carson, the retired neurosurgeon, found himself in hot water after asserting that the experience of some prison inmates proved that being gay is a societal choice.
In a wide-ranging discussion of gay rights with CNN's Chris Cuomo on Wednesday, Carson stated that he believed sexual preference was a matter of personal choice rather than something a person is born with. To prove his point, Carson then noted the experience of those who have been incarcerated.
"Because a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight—and when they come out, they're gay. So, did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question," Carson said.
Carson's comments were widely reported, and caused an immediate backlash on social media.
Hours later, Carson issued a formal apology in which he stated that he "realized that my choice of language does not reflect fully my heart on gay issues."
"I do not pretend to know how every individual came to their sexual orientation. I regret that my words to express that concept were hurtful and divisive. For that I apologize unreservedly to all that were offended," Carson's statement read.
Still, Carson said that the jury is still out on the question of how a person's sexual orientation is determined.
"Some of our brightest minds have looked at this debate, and up until this point there have been no definitive studies that people are born into a specific sexuality," the statement he provided to CNN read.