Ben Carson shocked a CNN anchor Tuesday when he brushed off Donald Trump’s lewd comments from 2005 about groping women, saying he was surprised that people aren’t used to hearing such remarks and insisting “that kind of banter goes around all the time.”
Carson took his defense of the Republican nominee a step further when senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar challenged his stance that the crass language is commonplace, saying “I haven’t heard it, and I know a lot of people who haven’t heard it.”
He countered, stunning Keilar into silence, by saying, “Maybe that’s the problem.”
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“I’m surprised you haven’t heard that. I really am,” Carson told Keilar. “As I was growing up, people were always trying to talk about their sexual conquests and trying to make themselves appear … like Casanova.”
Trump, he said, has changed a lot in the 11 years since that recorded conversation with then “Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush. Back in 2005, Carson argued, Trump was just “a billionaire playboy,” though he’d married his third wife, Melania, earlier that year.
Trump has received significant backlash from within the Republican Party since the recording of the lewd comments was released on Friday, culminating Monday when House Speaker Paul Ryan told fellow Republicans that he would no longer defend Trump or campaign for him.
Carson, a former White House hopeful turned Trump surrogate told Yahoo News earlier this week that the GOP nominee prayed with televangelist James Robison ahead of Sunday night’s presidential debate. Asked whether Trump had prayed for forgiveness, Carson said, “Yes. Absolutely.”
Trump, Carson said at the time, “is coming ever closer to the Lord.”
Carson downplayed the significance of the 2005 comments throughout the CNN interview, though he seemed to contradict himself at one point, calling the taped conversation “abominable.”
“It doesn’t excuse the words, it doesn’t excuse what was done. I think it’s abominable. I don’t think there’s any way you can justify it, and I don’t hear anybody trying to justify it,” he said, before attempting to steer the interview to campaign issues like tax reform and college debts.
“Let’s move on,” Carson said. “Call it whatever you need to call it to make it feel good to you.”