Ben Carson, top left, and his wife Candy, top center, pose for a selfie with a young supporter after a town hall meeting Sunday, Feb. 21, 2016, in Reno, Nev. (Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson says that President Obama cannot truly understand the African-American experience because he was “raised white.”
“He’s an ‘African’ American. He was, you know, raised white. Many of his formative years were spent in Indonesia,” Carson said to journalist Glenn Thrush. “So, for him to, you know, claim that, you know, he identifies with the experience of black Americans, I think, is a bit of a stretch.”
During an interview for Politico’s “Off Message,” which aired Tuesday, the retired neurosurgeon suggested that his upbringing reflects the black experience in the U.S. more than Obama’s.
Carson was born in Detroit to African-American parents. His rise from childhood poverty to resounding success as a neurosurgeon served as an inspirational story that propelled him into the national spotlight and, ultimately, the race for the White House.
Barack Obama speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016. (Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)
Obama was born in Honolulu to a white mother and a black Kenyan father. He spent several years of his childhood in Indonesia before returning to Hawaii.
Carson told Thrush that he did not derive much joy or pride from watching Obama’s inauguration as the nation’s first black president because of his life story.
“You know, I did not. I mean, like most Americans, I was proud that we broke the color barrier when he was elected, but I also recognize that his experience and my experience are night-and-day different. He didn’t grow up like I grew up by any stretch of the imagination,” he said.
Later Tuesday morning, MSNBC host Thomas Roberts asked Carson to elaborate on his controversial comments about Obama.
“The fact of the matter is, you know, he did not grow up in black America. He grew up in white America,” he said. “Doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just that when a claim is made that he represents the black experience, it’s just not true.”
Carson, a soft-spoken, devout Christian, appealed strongly to the Republican Party’s socially conservative and evangelical bases and surged to number two in the polls last autumn. But his numbers have been flagging in recent months as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio have been picking up steam.
His campaign has not been focused on racial issues and he dismisses the notion that the Republican Party is in any way racist – saying that he has not been treated differently as a black man.
Caron told Thrush that he is 64 years old and has had the chance encounter “real racism” in his lifetime. Nowadays, he continued, real racism is more common among liberals than conservatives.
“They assume because you’re black, you have to think a certain way,” he said. “And if you don’t think that way, you’re “Uncle Tom,” you’re worthy of every horrible epithet they can come up with; whereas, if I weren’t black, then I would just be a Republican.”