Ben Carson, the Trump administration’s only African American Cabinet member, has backed President Trump’s description of Baltimore as “infested.”
During an appearance Monday night on Fox News, Carson said many homes in the city are “infested with rats and roaches.”
Before becoming secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Carson rose to prominence as a pediatric neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
He told Fox host Tucker Carlson that while working in the city, he sometimes faced a “horrible dilemma” over whether to send his young patients back to their homes.
“As a pediatric neurosurgeon, I spent many hours, sometimes operating all night long, trying to give children of Baltimore and other places around the world a second chance at life. And usually we were successful,” Carson recalled.
But he said he sometimes hesitated when it was time for his patients to leave the hospital.
“A few days later, I was in a horrible dilemma, because some of those kids had to go back into homes in East Baltimore that were infested with rats and roaches and ticks and mold and lead and violence,” Carson continued. “And I didn’t want to send them back. Sometimes I would even consider, you know, extra tests so they could stay in the hospital an extra day or two.”
Baltimore has been in the headlines since Saturday when Trump disparaged the city in inflammatory tweets directed at Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland), who represents the area.
Trump accused Cummings of being a “bully” and said he “has done a very poor job for his district and the city of Baltimore.” He also referred to Baltimore as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.”
Many social media users, Democrats, The Baltimore Sun and the Rev. Al Sharpton hit back and said Trump’s tweets were racist.
Carson insisted in the Fox interview that Trump isn’t a racist, and cited rising wages, a drop in the unemployment rate, and the Trump administration’s efforts at prison reform.
“All of these things are happening,” Carson said. “These are not things that a person who is a racist would do. And we allow ourselves to be distracted by these things.”
The HUD secretary also defended Cummings. Carson said he worked with the Congressman on issues including childhood education and improving life for the people of Baltimore when he lived in the city.
“I don’t think Elijah Cummings is a bad person,” Carson said. “I think he actually is working hard to try to help people.”