Ever since Ben Carson endorsed presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, he has served as a liaison of sorts between the thrice-married former reality television star and the evangelical community.
Carson is one Trump’s Christian whisperers; he speaks the language of faith and has a deep network of devoted followers, especially in the evangelical community. That makes Carson a necessary ally for Trump who has mispronounced Biblical terms, questioned the existence of Heaven and Hell and mused about the prospect of dating his daughter.
But after an extensive meeting with hundreds of evangelical leaders in New York City on Tuesday, Carson rebuked Trump on one point: questioning Hillary Clinton’s faith.
“I think people’s faith is a very private issue,” Carson said in a wide-ranging interview with The Daily Beast on Thursday. “The proof is in the pudding.”
During a day-long conference that included a question-and-answer session from faith leaders across the country, Trump said “we don't know anything about Hillary in terms of religion.”
“Now, she's been in the public eye for years and years, and yet there's no — there's nothing out there,” Trump said of the presumptive Democratic nominee who has frequently discussed her Methodist beliefs. “There's like nothing out there. It's going to be an extension of Obama but it's going to be worse, because with Obama you had your guard up. With Hillary you don't, and it's going to be worse.”
Trump once even questioned Carson’s faith in the fall of 2015, when the former neurosurgeon was gaining on him in the polls. He later said he would not apologize to Carson for this.
Addressing Trump’s remarks about Clinton, Carson cited a verse from the Book of Matthew saying “by their fruit, you will know them. That’s probably the better way,” he concluded.
Asked more pointedly if he believes that Clinton is in fact a devout Methodist, Carson told The Daily Beast “I have invested absolutely zero thought in what her religious inclinations are.”
The former neurosurgeon’s role in the Trump orbit has changed substantially in recent months. Initially put in charge of the candidate’s vice presidential search, Carson was replaced by (now fired) campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.
In conversation, Carson did not want to emphasize any specific role he now has besides “a concerned American citizen.” But he does have Trump’s ear and the unlikely duo has maintained a chummy relationship—Carson’s business manager Armstrong Williams previously described the two as “brothers.”
According to a transcript obtained from the closed door evangelical meeting, Carson was the introductory speaker before a question-and-answer session took place with Trump.
“Through the questions, he will have an opportunity to hear your heart, and he heard several different leaders this morning talk about what’s on their heart,” Carson reportedly said.
“We need to just keep in mind that Hillary Clinton, when she was in college, was on a first-name basis with Saul Alinsky, who was her hero,” Carson continued. “Saul Alinsky, who wrote the book Rules for Radicals. If you haven’t read it, please read it. You need to know who you’re dealing with. And on the dedication page, guess who it acknowledges? Lucifer, who gave his own kingdom as a radical.”
This last line allegedly drew some shocked moans from the audience.
Alinsky was a democratic socialist with whom Clinton met while attending Wellesley College.
When asked if citing this decades-old relationship, and specifically the Lucifer line, was meant to link Clinton with the devil himself, Carson demurred.
“I’m bringing it to people’s attention,” Carson explained. Anyone who associated with Alinsky is “someone that they need to know about,” he said of the attendees at the conference.
He has been citing the Alinsky letters as far back as 2014.
This is not the first time that Carson has disagreed with Trump’s rhetoric. When the presumptive nominee was spouting off about the ethnicity of a judge handling a lawsuit against Trump University, Carson warned that Trump was nearing “a phase of moral descent.”
In the interview, Carson characterized the difficulty with which Trump is going to have to walk a fine line between moderating his tone for a general election audience and seeming like just another vapid pol.
“It’s possible to moderate to some degree but bear in mind that the reason that he is the nominee is that people are sick and tired of the political class,” Carson explained. “If he becomes a part of that political class he will be rejected.”
Carson hadn’t had the opportunity to speak with Trump about the candidate’s view of the hours-long sit-in waged by Democrats in the House yesterday, but Carson offered a reasoned view of the situation.
“I certainly believe that those people involved in the sit in are sincere in their beliefs and they believe that they are right,” Carson said. “It’s part of our process,” he explained. “Protesting, demonstrating. It’ll play out.”
What Carson does next with Trump is not entirely clear and he didn’t want to give any details about the vice presidential process as it stands. But one thing he did intimate was that with Lewandowski gone, Trump is basically controlling the entire show.
“He has the most important role,” Carson said coyly.