Presidential hopefuls bank on town hall meetings as a cozy, personal way to woo new supporters. But after meeting GOP contender Ben Carson at a Staten Island event Monday, Rose Uscianowski told Mic her opinion of him hasn't improved.
"Until Ben Carson publicly accepts that sexuality is not a choice, no matter one's orientation, and apologizes for the countless homophobic remarks he's made throughout his campaign, I think he'll be full of shit," she said in an interview Wednesday.
The 26-year-old consultant, who identifies as bisexual, made headlines when she confronted the retired neurosurgeon during his post-event grip-and-grin session.
"Do you think I chose to be gay?" she demanded of Carson, who last March said he considered homosexuality a choice before quickly backpedaling. Carson tried to deflect Uscianowski's broadside and get back to his photo session.
"I think you're full of shit," she told him before taking off.
"He was definitely flustered at first; once he realized what was going on, he was very dismissive," Uscianowski told Mic. "When I told him I thought he was full of shit, he just said, 'OK,' and turned away."
She said she felt she'd put Carson into a bit of a catch-22 during his visit to Staten Island, traditionally a relative stronghold for Republicans in heavily Democratic New York.
Confronted with a question that's really about whether being gay is a natural state or an aberrant choice, she said, Carson had few choices: "He can double down on his homophobic statements, which angers anybody on the right who actually supports the LGBT community, or can be forced to admit that he's wrong. Either way, it's troubling to him."
What sets Carson apart in the pack of Republicans tangling for the nomination may not be as much his viewpoints, but his famously low-key affect. Uscianowski told Mic she feels that could make him more toxic in terms of promoting "homophobic and damaging" viewpoints about sexuality — and other topics, too.
She took the example of Carson having said in September that a Muslim should not be allowed to hold the Oval Office: "That is an insane thing to say, but he says it in such a soft-spoken, doctorly kind of manner, his insane comments seem perfectly rational when they're not."
Suffice to say, Uscianowski wasn't planning to vote for Carson anyway. She's currently on the fence between backing Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton or going with former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley. (The Carson campaign did not immediately respond to a Mic request for comment.)
Uscianowski, who said her political activities are usually more in the way of door-knocking and paperwork than getting in candidates' faces, admitted she found the experience a little "jarring and intimidating" herself.
Was it worth it, though? "I think so," she said. "Yeah, if it helps move the conversation forward."
It's hard to say whether any concrete change actually comes of Monday's showdown — whether on the part of Carson or the GOP at large, which has struggled to broaden its tent after watching the White House slip away again in 2012 — or Uscianowski is seen as just another Democratic heckler in Republican territory.
Uscianowski told Mic she feels the Republican Party must change, "because views are changing in America."
"GOP candidates are kind of 20 years behind on a lot of things, but especially gay rights," she said. "They're going to have to evolve."