Civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton laughed when asked about Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson’s recent comments that President Barack Obama was “raised white” and doesn’t really represent the “experience of black Americans.”
In an interview with ThinkProgress, Sharpton said the retired neurosurgeon should probably avoid talking about Obama’s childhood, given the controversy surrounding Carson’s own upbringing. Carson has claimed he had a violent adolescence, attempting on separate occasions to stab his friend and attack his mother with a hammer. News outlets, however, have cast doubt on some of those claims, calling them exaggerated.
“If I were Dr. Carson, I wouldn’t get into a conversation about who was raised black, given that he got in trouble talking about how he hit his mother in the head with a hammer and stabbed his brother or something,” Sharpton said. “I mean, are you saying now, unless you do things like that, you’re not black enough? I mean, that’s a little — leave that alone, Dr. Ben.”
Sharpton is not the only one to criticize Carson for his remarks about President Obama’s race. Comedian Trevor Noah also took a shot at the presidential candidate on Wednesday night. “Ben Carson is saying that because Obama didn’t grow up poor, he didn’t grow up black,” Noah said. “That is such a bullshit argument. Being poor isn’t what makes you black.”
Sharpton himself has been making waves on the presidential campaign trail, meeting recently with both Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. If he formally endorses a candidate, it is widely expected to be one of the two — but Sharpton has so far refused to indicate which one. As Clinton and Sanders compete for support from African American voters, Sharpton’s endorsement has been seen by some as one possible way to move the needle.
The only other presidential candidate Sharpton has met with in the course of the campaign, as it turns out, is Carson. In April, Carson attended the annual convention for Sharpton’s National Action Network, a non-profit that advocates for criminal justice reform, expanded voting rights, and gun control, among other things.
Aside from Carson, every other Republican presidential candidate has not responded to Sharpton’s requests for meetings, he said. And the fact that those candidates don’t seem to be interested in meeting with him or other civil rights activists, he added, is “troubling for the country.”
“You’ve got civil rights leaders and organizations that have a clear constituency, who want to talk about issues, [and] all of the [Republican] candidates wouldn’t do it,” Sharpton said. “Even in the most divided cities, you have dialogue. And I think that when you have someone that says, ‘I want to be the president of the country, for all people,’ but I can’t talk to certain people — how are they going to deal with solving conflicts around the world?”