Retired brain surgeon and conservative commentator Ben Carson has become a surprise frontrunner in the Republican presidential primary since launching his campaign in May. Even though Carson has never held public office, his short time in the spotlight has given him plenty of opportunity to make controversial and often factually incorrect statements.
“It’s so important that we get the best candidate,” Carson said on Fox News earlier this year. “Not the one with the highest name recognition but the one who can articulate the values of this nation, who can really represent the people, who understands the constitution and is willing to face challenges.”
Here are some of the ideas Carson has embraced during his political career:
Anarchy could cancel the 2016 election
Carson warned in an interview in 2014 that if we “continue down this pathway that we are going down,” referring to “this pathway where everything is framed in a political sense and our representatives are not working for the people, they’re working for their party,” then the anarchy could lead to the 2016 election being called off. He claimed that the growing national debt, ISIS and the then-Democrat controlled U.S. senate’s refusal to consider legislation passed by the Republican House of Representatives all pointed toward the idea that the country is headed toward anarchy.
If Carson’s prediction proved to be true, he said, Obama could declare martial law and the 2016 election would not occur.
Congress should be able to remove judges for voting for marriage equality
In an interview with a conservative radio host earlier this year, Carson said it was “unconstitutional” that judges have ruled in favor of equality despite statewide ballot initiatives that resulted in different outcomes. Carson said that when federal judges make rulings like this, “our Congress actually has the right to reprimand or remove them.”
Needless to say, Carson’s assertion is incorrect. Congress cannot simply remove a judge for ruling in a way the majority disagrees with. Judges may only be removed for impeachable offenses, which the constitution defines as “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Being gay is a choice because prison turns people gay
Carson now infamously said in a CNN interview in March that homosexuality is a choice, citing people who “go into prison straight — and when they come out, they’re gay” as proof. He later attempted to apologize for the remarks in which he addressed those who were offended, but reinforced his belief that sexual orientation is chosen.
Carson has also called marriage equality a “Marxist plot,” described marriage equality supporters as “enemies of America,” and compared homosexuality to pedophilia and bestiality, another statement that led him to similarly “apologize” for his “poorly chosen words.”
There’s no such thing as a war crime
Carson also said earlier this year that the U.S. should not hesitate to send troops to defeat the Islamic State and should not fear prosecution for its actions. In the Fox News interview, he said he would “not hesitate to put boots on the ground” and suggested that the military should not be subject to any war crimes law.
“If you’re gonna have rules for war, you should just have a rule that says no war,” he said. “Other than that, we have to win.”
Obamacare is the worst thing since slavery
Back in 2013, when Carson was still gaining recognition in the Republican Party, he said in a speech that “Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.”
“And it is in a way, it is slavery in a way, because it is making all of us subservient to the government, and it was never about health care,” he added. “It was about control.”
Carson has continued to speak out about Obama’s health care plan, saying this year that it’s “a bunch of crap” that politicians say they can’t unravel the legislation.
Obama is depressing the economy to keep people on welfare
After appearing on The View last year and saying that Americans have become dependent on welfare, Carson elaborated on Fox News. “Do you think that people who are on welfare want to be on welfare?” Fox’s Megyn Kelly asked him.
“I think some people have that as a way of life,” Carson responded, later adding that “perhaps some of the things that are going on right now which could be easily remedied are not being remedied in order to keep the economy depressed because there would be no appetite for many of the social programs if people were doing well.”
When pressed by Kelly, Carson wouldn’t name Obama but said there are “some people” taking these actions.
Obama signed immigration reform to bring in government-dependent voters
After speaking out about welfare, Carson said in an interview months later that Obama’s executive action on immigration was part of a “nefarious agenda” to bring new voters into the United States who will be dependent on government.
“Is he just trying to instead of get out the vote, bring in the vote?” former Republican Congressman J.D. Hayworth asked Carson.“Is this all designed to have new voters — despite the fact he claims they’re not going to get citizenship — is the long-term goal to bring in a new class of voters dependent on government?”
“Of course it is,” Carson replied. He added that Republicans should respond to Obama’s action by shutting down the government, but only the parts that are “important to the president” and not any parts that will “hurt the American people.”