“I don’t generally get into the name-calling thing,” Carson said in a phone interview with The Daily Beast on Friday morning. “I kind of left that behind in the third grade. I certainly don’t encourage it because the issues that we’re facing are incredibly important—for us and for the future generations.”
On Thursday, Trump defended calling his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton a “bigot.” A term with which he’s taken to describing her this past week.
“She is a bigot,” he said in a CNN interview. “She is selling them [African Americans] down the tubes because she's not doing anything for those communities. She talks a good game. But she doesn’t do anything.”
During a rally in New Hampshire on the same day, at which Carson introduced him, Trump assailed Clinton for saying that his voters are racists. (She did not characterize them monolithically like this but rather pointed to a number of troublesome connections between Trump and white nationalists in a sharp critique of the candidate in Reno yesterday).
But Carson—an often contemplative counterpart to Trump’s brash, bullying persona—said that he would not call Clinton a bigot, echoing the same sentiment as RNC spokesperson Sean Spicer, who chose not to use the word on MSNBC Friday morning.
“That’s what people do who don’t have anything to talk about,” Carson said of name-calling on both sides of the aisle. He said that it is the media’s responsibility to help guide candidates away from such attacks, despite the fact that Trump himself is the one who often perpetuates these self-inflicted errors.
Carson attended a meeting in Trump Tower on Thursday morning directed at beginning a process of outreach by the Trump campaign to the African-American community; a tall order for a candidate polling in the single digits with black voters in the final two months of his campaign. It’s a task made even more difficult by Trump’s history with housing discrimination and championing the birther movement.
But Carson is hopeful that Trump showing interest in issues relevant to the community will help him gain traction. He said that Democrats take black votes for granted while not providing real solutions so there’s an opening for Trump to offer a new option in the Republican party.
“The important thing is that he has started the process,” Carson asserted. “As you know, the Republican Party has been relatively missing in action when it comes to reaching out to minority communities in recent decades. I think particularly in the African-American community, a large number of people recognize that the Democrats have not done diddly-squat for them. But they don’t feel that they have any other place to go.”
In an attempt to give them another option, Trump’s campaign has planned to start visiting African-American communities, beginning with a visit to Carson’s hometown of Detroit on Sept. 3.
The former neurosurgeon’s place in the Trump orbit has waxed and waned this year, often with the former playing referee on some of Trump’s most vicious attacks. In June, Carson said it was a bad idea to attack Clinton over her faith. He also cautioned against Trump attacking judge Gonzalo Curiel over his ethnicity, saying that it was indicative of a “moral descent.”
That pattern continues today. Trump and some of his surrogates have publicly speculated about the health of Clinton, with Trump frequently commenting on her lack of “stamina,” while Carson, the only licensed medical practitioner of the bunch, has taken a different tack. He thinks that more medical information about both candidates should be publicized.
“There are plenty of people who are in their 60s, 70s, or 80s who are fit, healthy, and perfectly capable of vigorous activities,” Carson said (Trump is 70 and Clinton is 68). “When you get into that age range, obviously there’s more concern than somebody who is in their 30s or 40s. So it is not at all an unreasonable expectation to know about their health status.”
He implored both of the candidates to release even more up-to-date medical information.
At this critical juncture in the presidential election, Trump’s most ardent and sometimes perplexing surrogate thinks they are in good shape to begin chipping into Clinton’s sizeable lead with black voters.
“This is something that he’s going to focus on,” Carson said. “Now that people understand that, as he goes into the communities, I think their interests will be piqued.”
That is, so long as Trump ditches the name-calling.