Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson has come almost out of nowhere in the battle for the Republican presidential nomination, rising from the quiet, almost overlooked candidate in the first debate to now running second only to business mogul Donald Trump in the polls, with a Wednesday Quinnipiac University poll of swing states showing Trump with 23 percent of votes and Carson with 18 percent in Ohio.
As it turns out, though, Carson isn’t giving Trump a run for his money just in the polls. Carson also seems to have contracted the peculiar, borderline-offensive type of brash outspokenness that Trump so wholeheartedly embraces.
As a result, Carson has become the butt of many a joke in various arenas, from comedy shows to tweets by everyday citizens. One viral tweet even questions Carson’s smarts, which one would expect to be considerable, given his stellar career in pediatric neurosurgery:
So without further ado, here are five bizarre comments Carson has made in the past few weeks.
1. On the Holocaust: Hitler would have had more trouble taking over in Germany “if the people had been armed.”
To set the scene, Carson was having a sit-down with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer to discuss some rather controversial comments in his new book, A More Perfect Union: What We the People Can Do to Reclaim Our Constitutional Liberties. In the book, Nazi Germany is used as an example to argue for the right to bear arms.
“Just to clarify, if there had been no gun control laws in Europe at the time, would 6 million Jews have been slaughtered?” Blitzer asked Carson.
“I think the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed. … I’m telling you that there is a reason that these dictatorial people take the guns first,” Carson responded.
2. On being held at gunpoint at Popeyes: “You want the guy behind the counter.”
Carson essentially told an alleged gunman to go target someone else, which isn’t exactly … nice, let’s say. Of course you’d think, who has time to be nice when someone is pointing a gun at you? Fair point, except this anecdote only came up because Carson had been bragging about what he would do when faced down by a gunman. So to supposedly prove his point, Carson told Sirius XM host Karen Hunter that he was once held up at a Baltimore Popeyes.
“[A] guy comes in, put the gun in my ribs, and I just said, ‘I believe that you want the guy behind the counter,’” he said, without further elaborating on what happened after that.
That’s a far cry away from supposedly jumping the gunman, which is what got Carson into this gun-debate debacle in the first place. We’ll get to that next.
3. On mass-shooting victims: They shouldn’t “just stand there.”
So this was the comment that really brought Carson under sharp scrutiny in the gun control debate. The shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., Oct. 1 shook the nation but was just the latest in a way-too-long list of such tragedies that make gun control and mental illness the topics of national debate without leading to any solutions. It’s a vicious, nonsensical cycle.
But back to Carson’s comment. While being interviewed on Fox & Friends, the presidential candidate claimed that he would never back down in such a situation.
“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 told his hosts.
He faced immediate backlash for his seeming insensitivity, which also reeked of victim-blaming.
“I’ve been doing this for 15 years now, and those were some of the ugliest comments that I’ve ever heard,” Ladd Everitt, a spokesman for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, said to The Guardian. Carson, Everitt said, “basically blamed the victims for their own deaths.”
“His suggesting that if he had been there, he could have taken the shooter down through the power of Christ or somehow, it’s just unbelievable,” Everitt added. “You begin to question this man’s mental health, doing this with a smile on his face and thinking it’s acceptable.”
4. On joking about running from the police when he was a child: “That was back in the days before they would shoot you.”
Given the current political climate and the tragedies that activist groups such as Black Lives Matter are responding to, Carson’s joke about his interactions with police when he was a child was a bit … off-color.
Speaking at the University of New Hampshire, Carson spoke about his mischievous childhood in Detroit and how he would throw rocks at cars.
“Sometimes the police would come, always in unmarked cars. And they'd be chasing us across the field,” he said, describing how he and his friends would jump over high fences in one leap without breaking their stride to get away from cops. Once they cleared the fence, the group would taunt the cops, who couldn’t get across to catch them.
“That was back in the days before they would shoot you,” Carson said, laughing, before quickly adding, “I’m just kidding. You know they wouldn’t do that!”
Carson didn’t even use the ill-timed joke to talk about police brutality but instead offered praise for the police.
“I really have a tremendous amount of respect for the police because they put their lives on the line every day for us, and they are the very last people that we should be targeting,” he said.
5. On a Muslim president: “I do not believe Shariah is consistent with the Constitution.”
Carson, as it turns out, “would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.”
“I absolutely would not agree with that,” the lone black Republican presidential candidate told Meet the Press host Chuck Todd during an interview Sept. 20.
“I do not believe Shariah is consistent with the Constitution of this country. Muslims feel that their religion is very much a part of your public life and what you do as a public official, and that’s inconsistent with our principles and our Constitution,” he added in a subsequent interview, doubling down on his comments.
Needless to say, these anti-Muslim comments drew backlash—although on the flip side, the super PAC supporting his candidacy received an influx of donations from like-minded supporters.
Breanna Edwards is a newswriter at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.