Why did Donald Trump say he believed women should receive “some form of punishment” for receiving an abortion—should he succeed in making the medical procedure illegal—and then just a few short hours later completely reverse that position?
For the answer, CNN turned to 2016 candidate-turned-Trump surrogate Dr. Ben Carson, who was quick to defend the GOP frontrunner over what he chalked up as nothing more than a misunderstanding.
First off, the neurosurgeon said he agreed with Trump’s subsequent statement that “the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman.”
“I agree that the woman is the victim,” Carson told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Wednesday evening. “She’s traumatized emotionally and in many other ways, and that’s problematic. In terms of who should be punished, that woman has already been punished. If it has become illegal, then obviously the person performing the abortion is the person who is breaking the law.”
But presented with Trump’s blatant flip-flop on Wednesday afternoon, Carson made excuses for the candidate.
“Well, bear in mind, I don’t believe that he was warned that that question was coming, and I don’t think he really had a chance to really think about it,” Carson said. Trump’s refusal to equivocate on the question served as just more proof that he is not a typical politician, Carson said. If he was, he would have known to give an answer that’s “not definitive.”
“He hasn’t really learned that because he’s not a politician,” Carson continued. “But he has now had time to come back and think about it and to talk with his people about it and come up with a more rational and informed type of answer.”
Carson was more eager to criticize Trump—along with the other two GOP candidates still in the race—when Burnett brought up the so-called Republican loyalty pledge that essentially went out the window on Tuesday night. The former candidate warned that if Trump, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich “destroy the unity in the party” by refusing to back the eventual nominee, the consequences could be dire.
“At some point the Republicans have got to stop this self-destructive behavior, which they always seem to engage in no matter how much of an advantage they have,” Carson said.
So, in Carson’s world, disloyalty to the Republican Party is “self-destructive,” but the party’s frontrunner casually saying women deserve punishment for abortion is no big deal.