Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson said Tuesday that political correctness “is going to destroy our nation” after Rep. Jennifer Wexton, Virginia Democrat, asked him to apologize for a comment that upset the transgender community.

During a House Financial Services Committee hearing on housing policy, Ms. Wexton asked Mr. Carson whether he would like to apologize for his reported comment during a HUD meeting last month about “big, hairy men” using women’s homeless shelters. Some people in attendance told The Washington Post at the time that they viewed the remark as disrespectful to transgender people.

Mr. Carson repeated his denial that the remark had anything to do with transgender people and explained that he was recalling a story he heard from a women’s group in Alaska about men pretending to be women in order to gain access to women’s shelters.

“Well, first of all, I didn’t describe transgender women that way, I was relating a story that a women’s group told me about big hairy men,” he said Tuesday. “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.”

“You don’t feel the need to apologize for those comments?” Ms. Wexton asked.

“No,” Mr. Carson responded. “I think this whole concept of political correctness: ‘You can say this. You can’t say that. You can’t repeat what someone said,’ is total foolishness and it’s going to destroy our nation and we need to be more mature than that.”

Ms. Wexton later tweeted a clip of the exchange, writing, “Today I gave @SecretaryCarson the opportunity to apologize for his remarks slurring transgender women as, ‘big, hairy men.’ Regrettably, he declined that opportunity. Hateful words translate into discriminatory policy—and Secretary Carson has demonstrated that time and again.”

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