Tuesday, December 20, 2016
What you need to know about Ben Carson, Trump's pick for HUD
Here's an updated rundown of Carson's most controversial comments from his campaign and others that have made waves in the past:
1. On his history of violence
On Thursday, CNN published a report in which reporters interviewed nine friends, former classmates and neighbors to try to corroborate Carson's accounts of personal violence against his mother and acquaintances as a child and as an adolescent. It could not find anyone who would say they were a victim of Carson's or even had knowledge about the incidents.
"I was trying to kill somebody," Carson told a San Francisco audience in September. He wrote in his 1990 best-selling autobiography, "Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story," in recounting an incident where as an adolescent he tried to stab a friend: "Grabbing the camping knife I carried in my back pocket, I snapped it open and lunged for the boy who had been my friend. With all the power of my young muscles, I thrust the knife toward his belly. The knife hit his big, heavy ROTC buckle with such force that the blade snapped and dropped to the ground." He has used the story to share his personal journey from troubled youth to highly successful surgeon.
Carson responded defensively on Thursday to a CNN reporter's questions about identifying his victims.
“Well, why would you be able to find them? What makes you think you would be able to find them? Unless I tell you who they are. And if they come forward on their own, because of your story, that’s fine, but I’m not going to expose them," he told the reporter at a Miami book signing for his latest work.
2. On Joseph and the pyramids
On Wednesday, BuzzFeed published an article featuring a video of the then-Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon delivering a commencement address at Andrews College in 1998 in which he discussed his belief that the pyramids in Egypt were built as granaries, not as tombs for pharaohs.
"My own personal theory is that Joseph built the pyramids to store grain. Now all the archaeologists think that they were made for the pharaohs’ graves. But, you know, it would have to be something awfully big if you stop and think about it. And I don’t think it’d just disappear over the course of time to store that much grain," he told students, according to the video posted.
Carson defended his beliefs on Thursday, telling reporters in Miami that “some people believe in the Bible, like I do, and don’t find that to be silly at all and believe that God created the Earth and don’t find that to be silly at all."
"The secular progressives try to ridicule it anytime it comes up, and they’re welcome to do that," he added.
3. On Cuban immigration policies
During an interview with the Miami Herald on Wednesday, Carson admitted that he was not well briefed on the so-called wet-foot, dry-foot policy that determines which Cuban immigrants are allowed to stay and which are immediately deported. He also said he had "not been briefed" on the intricacies of the Cuban Adjustment Act, which allows Cubans who come to the U.S. to apply for residency after 366 days.
“You’re going to have to explain to me exactly what you mean by that,” Carson said of the wet-foot, dry-foot question. “I have to admit that I don’t know a great deal about that, and I don’t really like to comment until I’ve had a chance to study the issue from both sides.”
When the reporter explained it to him, Carson said that it sounded "perfectly reasonable."
Asked whether he had any further comment on Thursday in Miami, Carson said he wanted to do an "in-depth deep dive" into the issue. "Because, see, it doesn’t make sense to me, quite frankly, the whole wet foot, dry foot thing doesn’t make sense to me. Because like I said, you catch them a mile off, you treat them differently than if they’re on the shore. And I also recognize that many people have taken advantage of that, and you know, gotten all kinds of benefits that perhaps they don’t deserve," he said. "There are other people who perhaps get denied things that they should have. You know, you need to dive into those things deeply, and I’m not sure that wet foot, dry foot is where the emphasis should be. The emphasis should be on people who are trying to escape an oppressive regime, how do we make sure people not appropriately doing it don’t take advantage of our generosity?"
4. On bathrooms for transgender people
“How about we have a transgender bathroom?” Carson asked Fusion anchor Jorge Ramos in a Thursday interview, adding that “[i]t’s not fair for them to make everybody else uncomfortable."
Carson went on to say that he thought everybody has equal rights, "but I’m not sure anybody should have extra rights — extra rights when it comes to redefining everything for everybody else and imposing your view on everybody else."
Human Rights Campaign denounced the remarks. "Ben Carson can’t go a week without invoking reckless and irresponsible stereotypes about the LGBT community, and his suggestion that transgender people be required to use segregated bathrooms echoes an ugly past our country should never revisit," the group's president, Chad Griffin, said in a statement.
5. On the Declaration of Independence
In a Facebook post late Wednesday evening, Carson stated his case for Americans skeptical about electing a president without experience in elected office.
"The current Members of Congress have a combined 8,700 years of political experience. Are we sure political experience is what we need. Every signer of the Declaration of Independence had no federal elected office experience," he wrote. "What they had was a deep belief that freedom is a gift from God. They had a determination to rise up against a tyrannical King. They were willing to risk all they had, even their lives, to be free."
As The Washington Post's Fact Checker blog pointed out to Carson's campaign, however, several members of the committee that drafted the historic document served in their states' equivalent legislatures. The claim earned four Pinocchios.
"Touche. Four Pinnochios? Or do you give credit for intent?" campaign spokesman Doug Watts asked the Post.
6. On Americans who are 'stupid'
On Tuesday, Mother Jones surfaced a video from last November in which Carson addressed an audience at Richard Nixon's presidential library in California, remarking that American "people are not as stupid as [the media] think they are."
"Many of them are stupid, OK. But I'm talking about overall," he said.
Asked to explain his remarks on CNN on Friday, Carson said he was referring to Americans "who take the disadvantaged people in our country and say, 'You poor little thing, I’m going to give you everything that you possibly need.'"
"That’s not helping those people, and all that you have to do is look what's happened since the Great Society programs of Lyndon Johnson. We’ve spent $19 trillion and we have 10 times more people on food stamps, more people in poverty, more broken homes, out of wedlock births, crime, incarceration. Everything is not only worse, it’s much worse. You’d have to be kind of stupid to look at that and not realize that that’s a failure and to say we just didn’t do enough of it. That’s what I call stupid," he told CNN on Friday.
In the same video, he also pointed to Fox News as the only thing keeping the United States from becoming Cuba. Asked by CNN if he meant that the U.S. would be a communist nation if not for the 19-year-old cable news network, Carson fired back. “No," he responded. "Again, there you go with sensationalism."
7. On Nazi Germany and guns
"I think the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed," Carson said in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Thursday. "I'm telling you, there is a reason these dictatorial people take the guns first."
The comment followed Blitzer's reading of a passage from Carson's new book, “A More Perfect Union: What We the People Can Do To Reclaim Our Constitutional Liberties," in which the retired neurosurgeon wrote that "German citizens were disarmed by their government in the late 1930s, and by the mid-1940s, Hitler's regime had mercilessly slaughtered 6 million Jews and numerous others whom they considered inferior. Through a combination of removing guns and disseminating deceitful propaganda, the Nazis were able to carry out their evil intentions with relatively little resistance."
Carson explained what he meant in subsequent interviews the next day.
"This is a general pattern that you see before tyranny occurs. There are many countries where that has occurred where they disarm the populace before they impose their tyrannical rule," he said on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports" in October. "That’s not a rare situation and that’s something that we don’t want to ever even think about, and that’s one of the reasons that Daniel Webster said what he said. He said there will never be tyranny in the United States because the people are armed."
8. On how he would handle an active-shooter situation
The candidate told "Fox and Friends" that if a gunman like the one who killed nine people at Umpqua Community College in Oregon had walked up to him and asked his religion, he would not go along.
"Not only would I probably not cooperate with him, I would not just stand there and let him shoot me, I would say, ‘Hey guys, everybody attack him. He may shoot me, but he can’t get us all,'" Carson suggested, when talking about the October killings.
9. On solving the crisis of gun violence
In a Facebook post, Carson answered a question from an email in which he was asked whether the shooting in Oregon had changed his feelings on the issue.
"I grew up in the slums of Detroit. I saw plenty of gun violence as a child. Both of my cousins were killed on the streets. As a Doctor, I spent many a night pulling bullets out of bodies," he wrote. "There is no doubt that this senseless violence is breathtaking — but I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away. Serious people seek serious solutions," he added.
10. On how progressives think he's an 'Uncle Tom'
In an interview with conservative radio host Dennis Prager earlier this week and posted by BuzzFeed News on Friday, Carson claimed that most of the racism in the United States comes from the left.
“I’m not sure I agree that there isn’t a fair amount of racism here," he said in response to a statement from Prager that the U.S. is the least racist country of those with multiple races.
"There is, but it’s not where you would expect it to be," Carson continued, "it is mostly with the progressive movement who will look at someone like me, and because of the color of my pigment, they decide that there’s a certain way that I’m supposed to think. And if I don’t think that way, I’m an Uncle Tom and they heap all kinds of hatred on you. That, to me, is racism.”
11. On comparing the D-Day invasion to his presidential campaign and movement
Speaking to the National Press Club, Carson drew an analogy between his presidential campaign and the D-Day invasion of Normandy in World War II.
"What if on D-Day, our soldiers, invading the beaches at Normandy, had seen their colleagues being cut down — a hundred bodies laying in the sand, a thousand bodies laying in the sand — what if they had been frightened and turned back?" he asked, in concluding his speech.
"Well, I guarantee you they were frightened, but they didn't turn back. They stepped over the bodies of their colleagues, knowing in many cases that they would never see their homeland or their loved ones again. And they stormed those Axis troops, and they took that beach, and they died. Why did they do that? They didn't do that for themselves. They did it for you — and they did it for me. And now it's our turn," he went on.
"And what are we willing to do for our children, and our grandchildren. Are we willing to stand up? Or are we afraid that somebody's going to call us a nasty name? Or that we're going to get an IRS audit? Or that somebody's going to mess with our job?" he asked. "You know, we have a lot less to lose than they did. And the people who are always telling me to hang in there, don't let them get to you. Believe me: Do not worry about it, because the stakes are much too high."
12. On whether a Muslim should be president or nominated to the Supreme Court
"I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that," Carson told NBC News' Chuck Todd during the episode of "Meet the Press" that aired Sept. 20.
He went on to say that Muslim members of Congress are a different situation, but that it depends who that person is and "what their policies are, just as it depends on what anybody else says, you know."
"And, you know, if there's somebody who's of any faith, but they say things, and their life has been consistent with things that will elevate this nation and make it possible for everybody to succeed, and bring peace and harmony, then I'm with them," he explained.
Weeks later, Carson addressed his stance toward the third branch of the government.
"If I were the one nominating such a person, I would spend a good deal of time looking at their background and seeing if it is consistent with the kinds of standards that we expect from such a position," Carson told Hugh Hewitt in an Oct. 1 interview. "I would take that into account much more than what they had to say. It’s been part of the problem, I think, with some of the selections. We listen to what they say and not what they have done."
Carson said that he would not have a problem with nominating a Muslim to a judicial position so long as her or she is "willing to accept the principles and values of America and our Constitution."
13. On whether being gay is a choice
Two months before he declared his candidacy, Carson sat down on CNN's "New Day" and in the course of the interview remarked that being gay is a choice, citing the example of people who go to prison straight and come out gay.
"A lot of people who 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," he told Chris Cuomo.
Carson apologized later in the day. "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," he said.
14. On the worst thing since slavery
At the Values Voter Summit in October 2013, Carson remarked that "Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery."
"And it is in a way, it is slavery in a way, because it is making all of us subservient to the government, and it was never about health care. It was about control," he said.
On a separate occasion, Carson suggested that Obamacare was worse than 9/11, though he walked back the comments back the next day.
15. Americans are living in a 'Gestapo age'
At a March 2014 event in New York, a reporter for Breitbart News asked: "I've been told that he [Carson] said we're living in a 'Gestapo age'. What do you mean by that?"
“I mean very much like Nazi Germany — and I know you’re not supposed to talk about Nazi Germany, but I don’t care about political correctness — you know, you had a government using its tools to intimidate a population,” Carson said. “We now live in a society where people are afraid to say what they actually believe, and it's because of the PC police, it's because of politicians, because of news — all of these things are combining to stifle people's conversation.”
HUD spelled backwards is DUH!