Ben Carson

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Ben Carson
Ben Carson at CPAC 2015.jpg
Carson speaking at CPAC, February 2015
Born Benjamin Solomon Carson
(1951-09-18) September 18, 1951 (age 64)
Detroit, Michigan, United States
Ethnicity African American
Alma mater Yale University (B.A.)
University of Michigan (M.D.)
Known for Separation of conjoined twins
Conservative political commentary
Political party Republican (1981-99; 2014–present)
Democratic Before 1981
Independent (1999–2014)[1]
Religion Seventh-day Adventist Church
Spouse(s) Lacena "Candy" (Rustin) Carson (m. 1975)
Children 3 sons:
Benjamin, Jr.
Awards Presidential Medal of Freedom
Ford's Theatre Lincoln Medal

Benjamin Solomon "Ben" Carson, Sr. (born September 18, 1951) is an American retired neurosurgeon who was the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital from 1984-2013. He is known for being the first surgeon to separate conjoined twins as well as a bestselling author, and political commentator.

In 2008, Carson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush.

After delivering a widely publicized speech at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast, he became a popular conservative figure in political media for his views on social and political issues.[2] On May 4, 2015, Carson announced he was running for the Republican nomination in the 2016 presidential election at a rally in his hometown of Detroit.[3]

Early life

Carson was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Sonya (née Copeland) and Robert Solomon Carson, a Seventh-day Adventist minister.[4] Both his parents came from rural Georgia.[4] The results of a DNA test on the television series African American Lives estimated his ancestry as 20% European and 80% African, including ancestors within the Makua people.[5] Following his parents' divorce when Carson was eight years old, both he and his older brother, Curtis, were raised by their mother.[6]

In his book Gifted Hands, Carson relates that, in his youth, he had a violent temper. Once, while in the ninth grade, he nearly stabbed a friend during an argument.[7] After this incident, he began reading the Book of Proverbs and applying verses on anger. As a result, Carson states he "never had another problem with temper".[8][9][10]

Carson attended Southwestern High School in Southwest Detroit where he excelled in JROTC, a program sponsored by the United States Armed Forces, where he quickly rose in rank. While he was offered an appointment to West Point,[11] Carson turned it down and never went on to serve in the military.[12]

Carson graduated from Yale University, where he majored in psychology.[13] He received his M.D. from the University of Michigan Medical School,[14][15] and completed his residency in neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.[16]



Carson believes his hand–eye coordination and three-dimensional reasoning made him a gifted surgeon.[17] After medical school, he became a neurosurgery resident at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He began his career as a neurosurgeon, but also developed an interest in pediatrics.[17]

Carson specialized in traumatic brain injuries, brain and spinal cord tumors, achondroplasia, neurological and congenital disorders, craniosynostosis, epilepsy, and trigeminal neuralgia.[18]

Carson was a professor of neurosurgery, oncology, plastic surgery, and pediatrics, and he was the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital.[18] In 1984, at age 33, he became the youngest major division director in the hospital's history, as director of pediatric neurosurgery. He was also a co-director of the Johns Hopkins Craniofacial Center.

Carson figured in the revival of the hemispherectomy, a drastic surgical procedure in which part or all of one hemisphere of the brain is removed to control severe pediatric epilepsy. He refined the procedure in the 1980s, encouraged by John M. Freeman,[19] and performed it many times.[20][21]

In 1987, Carson successfully separated conjoined twins, the Binder twins, who had been joined at the back of the head (craniopagus twins). The 70-member surgical team, led by Carson, worked for 22 hours. Both twins survived.[22][23][24]

Carson is the author of many articles in peer-reviewed journals.

In March 2013, Carson announced he would retire as a surgeon, saying "I'd much rather quit when I'm at the top of my game".[25] His retirement became official on July 1, 2013.[26]

Speaker, writer, board member

Carson has written six bestselling[27] books published by Zondervan, an international Christian media and publishing company. The first book, in 1992, was an autobiography. Two books are about his personal philosophies of success (hard work, faith).

In July 2013, Carson was hired by The Washington Times as a weekly opinion columnist.[28] In October 2013, Fox News hired Carson as a contributor, to provide analysis and commentary across Fox News Channel’s daytime and primetime programming.[29]

In a 2015 financial disclosure, Carson reported from January 1, 2014, to May 3, 2015, he had given 141 paid speeches for which he had been paid more than $4 million. He also reported earnings during that period of between $1.1 million and $6 million in book royalties, between $200,000 and $2 million from his work for The Washington Times and Fox News, and between $2 million and $10 million while serving on the boards of Kellogg Company and Costco.[30] He resigned from Costco's board in mid-2015, after serving on it for more than 16 years.[31]

Awards and honors

Carson is a member of the American Academy of Achievement,[32] Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society,[33] and the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans.[34] Carson has been awarded 38 honorary doctorate degrees and dozens of national merit citations.[35] Detroit Public Schools opened the Dr. Benjamin Carson High School of Science and Medicine[36] for students interested in pursuing healthcare careers. The school is partnering with Detroit Receiving Hospital and Michigan State University.[37]


Political affiliation and views

Carson said in 2013 that he was not a member of any political party.[51] However, he joined the Republican Party on November 4, 2014, the day the 2014 midterms took place, as "truly a pragmatic move" because he was considering running for president in 2016.[52] In his book America the Beautiful, he explained his decision to enter politics: "I believe it is a very good idea for physicians, scientists, engineers, and others trained to make decisions based on facts and empirical data to get involved in the political arena".[53][54]

Abortion and human fetal tissue

Carson has stated that he is pro-life.[55] After news about Planned Parenthood and undercover videos[56] revealed executives in the organization discussing the extraction and distribution of tissue from aborted fetuses, he condemned the videos and stated to Fox News, "there's nothing that can’t be done without fetal tissue."[57] Soon after, it was revealed[58] he had previously done research where the doctors applied, "human choroid plexus ependyma and nasal mucosa from two fetuses aborted in the ninth and 17th week of gestation."[59] He was interviewed, after the research was identified, in order to resolve the apparent conflict by stating to the Washington Post, "If you’re killing babies and taking the tissue, that’s a very different thing than taking a dead specimen and keeping a record of it".[60]

Cannabis legalization

Carson is against the legalization of recreational cannabis. He believes it to be a gateway drug that leads to more serious drug use.[61][62][63]

Economy and taxes

Carson has suggested that the U.S. abandon its current tax system in favor of a flat tax, arguing that a flat tax would eliminate loopholes and cheating. During a debate on September 15, 2015, Carson called progressive taxation, "socialism."[64] Carson has also advocated for a national luxury tax on "very expensive items".[65][66] Carson believes in raising the minimum age to receive Social Security benefits, "because people are living longer, straining the solvency of the program".[67]

Gun control

Carson stated in a 2013 interview with Glenn Beck that semi-automatic firearms should be better regulated in large cities and high-crime areas.[68] This statement has caused some with conservative views on gun control to question if his views were at odds with most conservatives. Later, clarifying that "This isn’t any evolution of my views, just that I’ve learned how to express myself," he stated that he is strongly in favor of the Second Amendment and that while guns being used on innocent people "is horrible," it "is not nearly as horrible as having a population that is defenseless against a group of tyrants who have arms. And that is what we have to bear in mind."[69] He also said that if in a position of national authority, he would allow citizens to own any weapons, including automatic and semi-automatic guns, that they could buy[70] and that he would not support any efforts to restrict the Second Amendment.[71]


Affordable Care Act

On October 11, 2013, Carson spoke at the conservative Values Voters Summit in Washington, D.C., where he called the Affordable Care Act (ACA) "the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery," further adding that it is a form of slavery because it "[makes] all of us subservient to the government." He claimed that the ideology behind the ACA originated with Vladimir Lenin, and quoted Lenin as saying that "socialized medicine is the keystone to the establishment of a socialist state".[72] There is no evidence that Lenin actually said this, but the purported quote appears on a number of conservative websites.[73][74] After an onslaught of criticism, Carson denied that he was "equating Obamacare with slavery" in an October 15 Washington Times column and denounced the "PC police" for attempting "to discredit and... silence" him.[75] During the National Prayer Breakfast, Carson said about the ACA: "Here's my solution. When a person is born, give him a birth certificate, an electronic medical record and a health savings account [HSA]".[76]

Criticism of health insurance companies

In a 2009 interview, Carson said that he found the "concept of for-profits for the insurance companies" absurd. He continued, "The first thing we need to do is get rid of for-profit insurance companies. We have a lack of policies and we need to make the government responsible for catastrophic health care. We have to make the insurance companies responsible only for routine health care."[77][78]

In 2014, Carson wrote in support of expanded use of health savings accounts, plus a system "similar to Medicare and Medicaid" to address "complex pre-existing or acquired maladies".[79] More generally, his position is that, "we need to remove health care from the political arena and recognize that any government proposals affecting the health of all citizens should be free market-based and should be so appealing that it would not be necessary to force citizens into the program."[80]

End-of-life care

In 1992, Carson wrote that aging and technological advancement will eventually lead to many people surviving their 100th birthdays.[81] He questioned the merits of prolonging life, citing the fact that "up to half of the medical expenses incurred in the average American's life are incurred during the last six months of life". He discussed the "dignity of dying in comfort, at home, with an attendant if necessary". Carson also stated: "Decisions on who should be treated and who should not be treated would clearly require some national guidelines... If a patient insisted on having everything done, consideration of more aggressive treatment should be given."[78][81][82] In January 2015, Carson stated that his views have evolved since 1992.[83][84]


In the Washington Times, Carson wrote: "Once illegals have legal status, it will be difficult to deny them any of the multitudinous entitlements that are freely distributed throughout our society." Nevertheless, Carson believes that illegal immigrants should be able to register as guest workers and have a pathway to apply for permanent resident status.[67]


Evolution and creationism

Ben Carson endorses Seventh-day Adventist theology, which includes belief in a literal reading of the first chapters of Genesis.[85]

Carson's views on evolution and creationism have been controversial.[86] In a 2006 debate with Richard Dawkins, Francis Collins, and Daniel Dennett, Carson stated: "I don't believe in evolution... I simply don't have enough faith to believe that something as complex as our ability to rationalize, think, and plan, and have a moral sense of what's right and wrong, just appeared."[87] In 2012, nearly 500 professors, students, and alumni of Emory University wrote a letter expressing concern about his views in advance of his commencement speech. They cited a quote in an interview with the Adventist Review: "By believing we are the product of random acts, we eliminate morality and the basis of ethical behavior."[88] Carson clarified:

Those of us who believe in God and derive our sense of right and wrong and ethics from God's word really have no difficulty whatsoever defining where our ethics come from. People who believe in survival of the fittest might have more difficulty deriving where their ethics come from. A lot of evolutionists are very ethical people.[86]

In a 2012 address to a Seventh-day Adventist audience, Carson discussed creationism and the Big Bang theory. He applied a junkyard tornado argument to the theory, and said it contradicts the second law of thermodynamics.[89] He argued that retrograde orbits in the solar system are inconsistent with conservation of angular momentum, which he said invalidates the Big Bang theory. Lawrence Krauss argues that, as Carson says Muslim candidates should be subjected to scrutiny about their religious beliefs, he too deserves scrutiny for how his worldview is inconsistent with the consensus of scientific information.[85]

Separation of church and state and Islam

In a 2014 op-ed article, Carson argued that separation of church and state in the First Amendment Establishment Clause has been "reinterpreted" by progressives away from its original intent, and that "our Judeo-Christian values have taken a big hit in recent years, we have not yet reached the point of a totally godless government".[90][91][92]

During a 2015 Meet the Press interview Chuck Todd asked Carson "Should a President's faith matter [to voters]?".[93] Carson stated, "I guess it depends on what that faith is. If it's inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter. But if it fits within the realm of America and consistent with the Constitution, no problem." When asked by Todd whether he believes Islam is consistent with the Constitution, Carson said: "No, I don't – I do not." He further stated, "I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that." He considers a Muslim running for Congress to be "a different story," however, saying that it would depend on who the Muslim is as well as their policies, just like it would be with any other person.[94]

Marriage and homosexuality

In March 2013, Carson described his views about same-sex marriage on Hannity, saying: "Marriage is between a man and a woman. No group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality, it doesn't matter what they are. They don't get to change the definition."[95] Carson's comments drew criticism for using "gays" in the same sentence as pedophiles and practitioners of bestiality. A group of Hopkins students petitioned that he be replaced as the university's commencement speaker.[95][96]

Several days later, Carson withdrew as Hopkins's commencement speaker and apologized, saying that "the examples were not the best choice of words", adding that the Bible "says we have an obligation to love our fellow man as ourselves, and I love everybody the same—all homosexuals".[96][97] He said on CNN that he loved all people, whether gay or straight.[95] Carson added, "I was trying to say that as far as marriage was concerned, it has traditionally been between a man and a woman and no one should be able to change that."[98]

In October 2014, Carson was added to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)'s extremist watch list because of his association with groups considered by SPLC to be extremist in nature, "linking gays with pedophiles", and his comparison of health care and liberal government to slavery and totalitarianism.[99][100] In February 2015, the SPLC removed his name and apologized to Carson,[101][102][103][104][105][106] stating:

"In October 2014, we posted an 'Extremist File' of Dr. Ben Carson. This week, as we've come under intense criticism for doing so, we've reviewed our profile and have concluded that it did not meet our standards, so we have taken it down and apologize to Dr. Carson for having posted it. We've also come to the conclusion that the question of whether a better-researched profile of Dr. Carson should or should not be included in our 'Extremist Files' is taking attention from the fact that Dr. Carson has, in fact, made a number of statements that express views that we believe most people would conclude are extreme."[107]

In a March 2015 interview with Chris Cuomo, Carson stated that homosexuality was "absolutely" a choice, claiming that "a lot of people go into prison straight, and when they come out, they're gay".[108] In a Facebook post, Carson apologized, saying that he "[does] not pretend to know how every individual came to their sexual orientation."[109][110] In a Facebook post, Carson said that he supports civil unions for gay couples and that he has "for many years".[111]

National Prayer Breakfast speech on social and fiscal issues

Carson was the keynote speaker at the February 7, 2013 National Prayer Breakfast.[112] In his speech, he commented on political correctness ("dangerous", because it goes against freedom of expression), education, health care, and taxation. Regarding education, he spoke favorably about graduation rates in 1831, when Alexis de Tocqueville visited the United States, and when "anybody finishing the second grade was completely literate". He espoused the idea of a tax-exempt health savings account created at birth, that can be bequeathed at death, along with an electronic medical record and birth certificate. He supports a flat tax, which he calls the "proportional tax" in reference to the biblical tithe.[113]

At the White House in 2008 for an award.

The speech garnered Carson considerable attention because the event is normally apolitical in nature, and the speech was critical of the philosophy and policies of President Barack Obama, who was sitting 10 feet away.[114] Conservative commentators from Rush Limbaugh to Sean Hannity and Neil Cavuto of Fox News praised the speech as an example of speaking "truth to power". The Wall Street Journal titled one of its op-eds "Ben Carson for President".[115] Columnist Star Parker wrote that he "owes no apology for honest talk".[116] Fox contributor Cal Thomas and commentator Bob Beckel, however, found his comments inappropriate.[117][118]

In an interview with Neil Cavuto, Carson defended himself, "Somebody has to be courageous enough to stand up to the bullies".[119] On February 8, he appeared on Hannity, and said that he would run for president "If the Lord grabbed me by the collar and made me do it".[120]

After the speech, Carson said: "I don't think it was particularly political...You know, I'm a physician".[121] Regarding the policies of President Obama, he said: "There are a number of policies that I don't believe lead to the growth of our nation and don't lead to the elevation of our nation. I don't want to sit here and say all of his policies are bad. What I would like to see more often in this nation is an open and intelligent conversation".[121]

In the National Review, Jonah Goldberg compared Carson to Booker T. Washington,[122] while David Graham compared him to Herman Cain without the "personal skeletons" in The Atlantic.[123]

Carson's sudden popularity among conservatives led to him being invited as a featured speaker at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). He tied for seventh place in the Washington Times/CPAC 2013 Straw Poll with 4% of the 3,000 ballots cast.[124][125] In the 2014 CPAC straw poll, he came in third place with 9% of the vote, behind senators Ted Cruz of Texas (with 11%) and Rand Paul of Kentucky (31%).[126]

Carson had a strong showing in the polls at the 2013 and 2014 Values Voter Summits: in 2013, he tied with former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum for second place with 13%, behind Ted Cruz's 42%. In 2014, he took 20% of the Values Voter Summit vote to Cruz's 25% and came in first place for the vice presidential poll.[127][128]

2016 presidential campaign

In January 2015, The Weekly Standard reported that the Draft Carson Committee had raised $13 million by the end of 2014, shortly after Carson performed well in a CNN/ORC poll of potential candidates in December 2014, coming in second in two different versions. He came in second with 10% behind Mitt Romney's 20%, but in the same poll with Romney removed from the list, Carson closed the gap with 11% to Jeb Bush's 14%.[129][130] The Wall Street Journal mentioned that the Draft Carson Committee had chairmen in all of Iowa's 99 counties, and that Carson had recently come in first place in two separate Public Policy polls for the state of Pennsylvania.[131][132]

On May 3, 2015, Carson confirmed his candidacy for President in an interview with a local television station in Cincinnati, Ohio. The next day, on May 4, 2015, he officially announced he was running for the Republican nomination in the 2016 Presidential election at a rally in Detroit, his hometown.[3]

Carson Scholars Fund

In 1994, Carson and his wife started the Carson Scholars Fund, which gave scholarships to students in grades 4–11 for "academic excellence and humanitarian qualities".[133] They founded it after reading that U.S. students ranked second to last in terms of math and science testing among 22 countries. They also noticed that schools awarded athletes with trophies whereas honor students only received "a pin or certificate".

Recipients of the Carson Scholars Fund get a $1,000 scholarship towards their college education. It has awarded 6,700 scholarships.[133][134] In recognition for his work with the Carson Scholars Fund and other charitable giving throughout his lifetime, Carson was awarded the William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership in 2005.[135]

Personal life

Carson and his wife, Lacena "Candy" Rustin, met in 1971 as students at Yale University. They married in 1975 and have three sons: Murray, Benjamin Jr., and Rhoeyce. They live in West Friendship, Maryland, and are members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.[136][137]

Carson was baptized at Burns Seventh-day Adventist Church on Detroit's eastside. A few years later he told the pastor at a church in Inkster, Michigan he was attending that he had not fully understood his first baptism and wanted to be baptized again, so he was. He has served as a local elder and Sabbath School teacher in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.[138] His mother is a devout Seventh-day Adventist.[139]


  • Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story. Zondervan. 1992. ISBN 9780310546511. . A separate television movie with the same title premiered on TNT on February 7, 2009, with Academy Award winner Cuba Gooding Jr. in the lead role and Kimberly Elise portraying his mother.[140]
  • Think Big: Unleashing Your Potential for Excellence. Zondervan. 1996. ISBN 0-310-21459-9. 
  • The Big Picture: Getting Perspective on What's Really Important in Life. Zondervan. 2000. ISBN 978-0310225836.  (with Gregg Lewis)
  • Take the Risk: Learning to Identify, Choose, and Live with Acceptable Risk. Zondervan. 2009. ISBN 0310259738. 
  • America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great. Thomas Nelson. 2013. ISBN 0310330912.  (with Candy Carson)
  • One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America's Future. Sentinel. 2014. ISBN 1595231129.  (with Candy Carlson), on the New York Times bestsellers list for 20 straight weeks, with 5 weeks as #1[129]
  • One Vote: Make Your Voice Heard. Tyndale House. 2014. ISBN 149640632X.  (with Candy Carson)
  • You Have a Brain: A Teen's Guide to T.H.I.N.K. B.I.G. 2015. ISBN 0310745993.  (with Gregg Lewis, Deborah Shaw Lewis)
  • My Life: Based on the Book Gifted Hands. Zondervan. 2015. ISBN 0310344514.  (with Cecil Murphey)
  • A More Perfect Union - The complete title is A More Perfect Union: What We the People Can Do to Reclaim Our Constitutional Liberties, written with Candy Carson, ISBN 978-0698195004 [141]

See also


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