Dr. Ben Carson on Wednesday walked back from comments he made saying being gay was a choice, noting in a Facebook post that his "choice of language does not reflect fully my heart on gay issues."
The about-face come hours after he appeared on CNN, where, when asked if being gay was a choice, Carson said: "Absolutely."
He explained, "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's remarks came shortly after he formed a committee to explore a 2016 presidential bid for the Republican nomination. The former neurosurgeon issued an apology later Wednesday on Facebook, though he noted that "up until this point there have been no definitive studies that people are born into a specific sexuality."
" … I realized that my choice of language does not reflect fully my heart on gay issues," he wrote. "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 said he supports rights and Constitutional protections for LGBT people plus the right for states to approve or deny gay marriage.
"I am not a politician and I answered a question without really thinking about it thoroughly. No excuses," he said. "I deeply regret my statement and I promise you, on this journey, I may err again, but unlike politicians when I make an error I will take full responsibility and never hide or parse words."
Carson has enjoyed relatively good positions in polls of early primary states. An NBC/Marist poll last month showed him winning support of 10 percent of South Carolina Republican primary voters. He placed fourth in last weekend's straw poll of attendees at the CPAC conservative conference near Washington D.C.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule by this summer on allowing gay marriage nationwide.