According to a report on Thursday, Ben Carson referred to transgender women as "big, hairy men" during an internal meeting with White House staff. In the meeting, sources said he compained about transgender people "trying to infiltrate" women's homeless shelters. Staffers were reportedly "shocked and upset" with one person walking out.
In an agency-wide email Friday obtained by POLITICO, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development admitted he expressed concern about "big, hairy men" trying to use women's restrooms but added that his comments were taken out of context.
"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," he wrote. "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."
He continued, "My point was that we have to permit policies that take into consideration the rights of everybody, including those women."
Several Democrats blasted Carson's reported remarks and renewed their calls for his resignation in the wake of his comments, with Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) deeming his remarks "revolting."
"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," Wexton said.
According to The Hill, Carson has previously sparked controversy over remarks about transgender people. He told the paper in 2016 that being transgender "doesn't make any sense." According to the Post, he has also referred to transgender people as "abnormal" and said they should not be in the military.