Sep 13, 2017, 5:41 PM ET

Americans 'manipulated into believing that they're enemies,' HUD Secretary Ben Carson says


Americans have "allowed themselves to be manipulated into believing they're enemies," Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson says, offering his explanation for the sharp divide exposed in last month's violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.

"I think a lot of the Americans that get caught up in this are decent people but they've allowed themselves to be manipulated into believing that they're enemies and that they should hate each other, and that they should try to destroy each other, and this is exactly the wrong thing," Carson told ABC News' "Powerhouse Politics" podcast.

Carson, a rival of President Donald Trump's during the 2016 Republican presidential primaries who backed the businessman after dropping out, said he's encouraged by Trump's recent efforts to bridge the partisan divide with outreach to Democrats.

"I'm glad to see the president reaching out to the other side," Carson told ABC News' Rick Klein and Katherine Faulders. "Because the fact of the matter is: we’re all in the same boat and if part of the boat sinks, the rest of us are going down, too.

"We need to start thinking more about the things that benefit all of us and get away from this partisanship," he added.

Trump sided last week with Democratic congressional leadership on a three-month plan to raise the debt limit, fund the government and provide hurricane relief, against the wishes of some Republicans, including members of his administration. Wednesday night, Trump will dine tonight with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to discuss protections for undocumented immigrants formerly covered by the DACA policy and efforts to stabilize health insurance markets.

Carson compared the outreach to the response he saw in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. While his department is making mortgage and rehabilitation insurance available to those affected and providing loans for the rebuilding of infrastructure, he also pointed out that those affected areas came to each other’s assistance without thought of their potentially conflicting political beliefs.

"Everybody was helping each other. They weren't asking them whether they were Democrats or Republicans," the retired neurosurgeon said. "Maybe the leaders [in Washington, D.C.] could take an example from the people themselves."

In August, Carson faced what he called a "symptom" of that partisanship when his appearance -- and introduction as secretary of housing and urban development -- at a Trump campaign rally raised the suggestion that he violated the Hatch Act, a law preventing some executive branch officials from participating in political affairs in their capacity as government employees.

The Office of Special Counsel ultimately concluded there was no wrongdoing on the secretary's part becausd he personally "did not refer to his official title or use his official position during the speech," according to a letter from OSC shared in a tweet by former Deputy Secretary of Labor Chris Lu, who filed the complaint.

Carson also said that critiques of the Trump campaign's hosting of the event were misguided and bound to occur no matter how it was funded.

"The purpose of the Trump campaign paying for it though is so that all of that doesn't go on the taxpayer's bill. He's trying to save the taxpayers money," Carson said, arguing that if the rally was held as a White House event and paid for "out of the [government's] coffers, then there would be complaints about that as well."

The secretary, who spent 30 years as director of pediatric neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore, thinks a party-blind ethos can be applied to the ongoing debate over health care.

Republican attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act collapsed in July, though the White House today endorsed a new proposal pitched by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. and Bill Cassidy, R-La.

"If we go back and we just ask ourselves: What are we trying to accomplish? And then create something around that, that is centered primarily around patients and health care providers, I think we would do ourselves a great favor," Carson said, expressing optimism about finding common ground with Democrats on the issue. "I don't think that's a partisan issue."

Carson, the only African-American member of Trump's Cabinet, explained that he understood why some feel disrespected and "threatened" by statues of Confederate leaders around the country.

The status of a monument featuring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee prompted the white nationalist rally that sparked the violence in Charlottesville.

He further echoed a stance that has been offered by Trump, questioning the value of erasing history by removing such statues. Any solution, Carson said, should come from the local level.

"That's why we have 50 states. That's why we have multiple communities," he said. "People have freedom to talk about how things should be done and how they want them remembered.”

News - Americans 'manipulated into believing that they're enemies,' HUD Secretary Ben Carson says

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  • Jack25

    Now just who be doing that, Ben??
    Can you spell TRUMP?

  • Omegacron

    He's not wrong. The people in power like to keep us distracted.

  • Edup McD

    Carson is a confused token weasel ...
    Trump successfully promoted this in his vile campaign by trashing Democrats & liberals as anti-American ...
    "I think a lot of the Americans that get caught up in this are decent people but they've allowed themselves to be manipulated into believing that they're enemies and that they should hate each other, and that they should try to destroy each other, and this is exactly the wrong thing," Carson told ABC News' ...

  • Saint

    He didn't mention that Trump and his cronies in Russia have done more to stir the pot and manipulate the American people than anyone else.

  • Delmon

    Carson said trump reached out to 'the other side.'

    Which side was that?

  • Wayne_LePew

    I think they're a bunch of losers looking to champion a cause, like the hippie losers in the 1960s.

  • Ronin

    Carson and his ilk are large part of the problem. Why would anyone bother to quote or report on him?
    Something is seriously wrong with Ben Carson. I suspect he is brain damaged by religion and unable to think clearly.

  • PaulCrozer

    Ben Carson is speaking coherently, and thoughtfully? What world are we living in?

  • Pangaea 47

    I am a moderate Democrat and I suspect that moderates in the middle, like me, are more characteristic of the majority of both political parties, and the Independents. I think that the extreme partisanship going on now is fueled more from the left than the the right, but it does not matter which side is responsible. I am sick of all the extreme rants by either side. Stop engaging in behavior and words not permitted to pre-schoolers.

    Please grow up and debate with civility and stop all the petty childish ranting.

  • KatsMind

    Ben has overlooked the fact that the current state of political partisanship was manipulated by Trump.

  • Miles

    Marx says the the same thing in "Das Capital". The reason the workers don't rise up together is because the capitalist work to divide them so they fight on other issues. So I guess Ben is a communist.

  • Tralfaz Gottrockets

    Not sure why people are beating Carson up for his quotations in this article. Don't we want politicians to tone down the partisanship and get back to compromising & collaborating?

  • John Petz

    Carson continues to bewilder many who cannot comprehend how a brilliant neurosurgeon like Carson...can utter such nonsensical statements.

    Congress has already sent Trump a pledge for him to sign which denounces white supremacy. Carson probably finds that annoying - go figure.

  • arriba65

    Ben Carson on Hillary Clinton: "let me tell you something about Saul Alinsky. He acknowledges Lucifer, the original radical who gained his own kingdom. Are we willing to elect someone as president who has as their role model somebody who acknowledges Lucifer?"

    And now he thinks we should stop all the partisan nonsense?

    Thanks Ben. I was teetering on the edge of thinking Democrats could actually work with Trump. You reminded me to stick to my guns. #Resist.

  • Pologize3

    Yet, our president insults people consistently. How does that help unite us?

  • ohyes2011

    Didn't know Carson was still around....

  • B-K KnightRider

    This is rich coming from someone who works for the Manipulator in Chief.

  • JDC

    People have very short memories. In 95 the GOP finally had control of the house for the first time in 40 years. After that win and Gingrich taking seat as speaker, the GOP started hammering Clinton. When W won in 2000 the democrats went a little farther and hammered him as hard as they could. Each cycle as brought even more hatred of the other side, and less educated voters. The team mentality has taken over. If you are a republican, a democrat, a tea party moron, a progressive,...whatever, you are an uninformed idiot. Party should exist at the politician level, not the voter level. If this statement "I am a...." doesn't end with the word "independent", then you should probably hit yourself in the head with a hammer as hard as you can. In fact, get one of your partisan friends to do it for you.

  • Fatesrider

    Inasmuch as Carson has a point, the fact is, it's not us being manipulated by the Russians into thinking we're enemies with the alt-right. They've been thinking of us as the enemy pretty much forever. They've armed themselves, wanting to take over the government and bring about a "revolution" that amounts basically to a race war since long before Clinton's administration.

    Timothy McVeigh was one, and look what he did.

    The "Patriot movement" was marked by the DHS at the beginning of the Obama administration as the greatest safety and security threat to the United States - well ahead of the so-called "Islamic terrorists" and long before Russia decided to muck up the landscape. But Russia only laid some fertilizer upon a a lot of seeds that already felt empowered by a white racist in the form of Trump and his administration.

    They ARE the enemy. They do need to be rooted out and destroyed. They are a direct threat to the safety and security of our country and they are more than happy to take away from others the very rights they're exploiting to spread their message.

    Taking down statues is only the beginning. Maybe some will get the message and begin to realize the delusions by which they live are bad for them, and the country. But the rest won't. And it's them who need to be hunted down, put on registries, outed in social media and given no quarter, no respite, no peace and no voice to spread their filth.

    EVERYONE seeking to remove civil rights and equality before the law is an enemy of this country. NEVER forget that.

  • flnycus

    ..the earth is flat, 4000 years old and the pyramids stored grain... Ben Carson.

  • wilmers13

    "We need to start thinking more about the things that benefit all of us and get away from this partisanship," he added.

    Oh dear, he will soon be described as a commie.

  • MauiOhana808

    Carson needs to go back to soap opera's.......................this gig is making him more crazier than he already is !!!!
    Aloha : )

  • thee1truth

    Sez the guy who is working for the most divisive President in history and is fueling the fire he created to fool the fools who believe the fool.

  • Tertulliano

    "I'm glad to see the president reaching out to the other side," what other side this naive person is talking about.

  • snake

    So opposing marchers wearing swatista armbands and chanting hatred of Jews & Blacks is partizan. Sorry but espousing extermination segments of humanity is evil and I believe in doing everything possible to stop them.

  • BLW51

    This from the guy that swears the pyramids are grain silos.

  • SearingTruth

    The problem is that President Trump and his religious and white supremacist hate group have been manipulated into believing they're not enemies of everything America has ever stood for fellow citizens.

    That's a far more ponderousness predicament.

    But thankfully they're a small though ever present segment of humanity.

    We can only hope that one day they will join the majority of us ...

    "One of the greatest tragedies of our existence is that we are a people united by so many common goals, but divided by so many uncommon beliefs.

    I believe that our goals are more important. We all want to be free. We all want our children to be healthy and happy. Most all of us want peace so long as our own rights are protected.

    These are the ideals that we can all strive for together. These are the threads of humanity that cannot be torn apart."

  • Guest

    Carson has been manipulated into believing he is what?