Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson spoke to US veterans at an Iowa town hall on 5 December and noted that he does not appreciate "using our military as a laboratory for social experimentation." The retired neurosurgeon, who has a history of making controversial comments during his campaign, noted that he would never deny women from combat positions but was against having transgender service members.
"You know, we have too many important things to do," Carson said at a "Veterans and Military Town Hall" in Waterloo, Iowa. "When our men and women are out there fighting the enemy, the last thing that we need to be doing is saying what would it be like if we introduce several transgender people into this platoon."
Carson continued: "You know, give me a break. Deal with the transgender thing somewhere else." According to NBC News, Carson noted that he prefers the previous military policy of "don't ask, don't tell," which ended in 2011. The policy, which was enacted by President Bill Clinton in 1993, barred gay service members from serving openly in the military.
The GOP presidential candidate's remarks follow the US military's decision to open all combat positions to women. The Pentagon-imposed deadline for the armed services to figure out how to incorporate transgender troops also nears, NBC News noted. An estimated 15,000 transgender troops in the US continue to keep their gender identities hidden in fear of being discharged from the military.
"I mean, why do you have to go around flouting your sexuality? It's not necessary, you don't need to talk about that, we need to talk about how we eliminate the enemy," Carson said during the town hall. While he noted that he would never "say 'no' to women" in the military, he would be "very frightened" if the military lowered standards.
Carson said: "If women can meet those standards, and they want to meet those standards and they want to do that, then I would never deny them ... But, you know, what woman wants to go out in the front line in the dirt and the slime fighting — I mean if they want to do it and they're capable, no problem."
According to The Huffington Post, Carson defended his comments to reporters after a speech at the Rising Tide Summit in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. "The military has a very important job, their job is to protect us," he said. "The last thing they need are a bunch of distractions."