- REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is now tearing into one of the rivals he long declined to criticize: retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.
In a CNN interview on Thursday, the real-estate magnate attacked Carson’s religiosity, persona, qualifications for the presidency, views on abortion – and even his medical record.
“He was a doctor, perhaps an OK doctor, by the way. You should check that out too. We’re not talking about a great [doctor]. He was an OK doctor,” Trump said.
As a doctor, Carson drew national attention at John Hopkins “by conducting a succession of operations that had never been performed successfully,” according to The New York Times, “most famously planning and managing the first separation of conjoined twins connected through major blood vessels in the brain.”
Trump said he was criticizing Carson because the retired brain surgeon took a shot at him the day before. CNN reported that Carson was asked at an event how he was different from Trump, and he responded by comparing their faith in God.
“Probably the biggest thing – I’ve realized where my success has come from, and I don’t in anyway deny my faith in God,” replied Carson, a member of the Seventh-day Adventist church. “By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life, and that’s a very big part of who I am. I don’t get that impression with him.”
Some political observers have suggested that Trump could struggle to win over evangelical voters because of his casual public approach to his own religion. For example, Trump has said he doesn’t seek forgiveness from God and referred to Holy Communion as eating “my little cracker” and drinking “my little wine.”
But as Trump noted on Twitter on Wednesday, he has solid support among evangelical voters in the polls, where he is widely found to be leading the Republican primary with Carson, a fellow political outsider, in the No. 2 position.
- Andrew Harnik
More to the point, Trump doesn’t feel like Carson is in any position to question him.
During his CNN interview Thursday, Trump suggested that Carson was only publicly embracing faith out of political convenience. Trump, who frequently brags at being a “counterpuncher” on the campaign trail, insisted he was a devout Christian as he unloaded on Carson.
“I don’t know about Ben Carson’s faith. And all of a sudden he becomes this great religious figure? I don’t think he’s a great religious figure. And I saw him yesterday quoting something – and he was quoting on humility – and he looked like he had just memorized it two minutes before he made the quote. So don’t tell me about Ben Carson,” he said.
Trump, who has reversed his own position on abortion, added that Carson was “horrendous” on the issue.
“Ben Carson, you’re talking about his faith?” Trump said. “Go back and look at his past. Go back and look at his views on abortion and see where he stands. You talk about abortion – I mean, go back and look at his views on abortion.”
“Ben Carson, you look at his faith and I think you’re not going to find so much. And you look at his views on abortion, which were horrendous. And that’s is why I think I’m leading with all of the evangelicals,” Trump added. “I’m leading Ben Carson by a lot.”
The billionaire real-estate developer constantly accuses another rival, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for being a “low-energy person.” But Trump said on CNN that the soft-spoken Carson has even less energy.
“Frankly, he makes Bush look like the Energizer Bunny,” Trump quipped. “He’s very low key.”
And Trump also said Carson was not qualified for the Oval Office.
“Because he’s a doctor, and he hired one nurse, he’s going to end up being the president of the United States?” Trump mused. “Ben Carson is not going to be your next president. That I can tell you.”