Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson is expected to arrive in Jordan on Friday to visit Syrian refugees, campaign officials confirmed Thursday. Carson plans to visit the Azraq refugee camp in northern Jordan as he continues to come under fire for his depth of foreign-policy knowledge. He is expected to visit a clinic and hospital, where he will distribute soccer balls and Beanie Babies to children. Carson has previously strongly opposed the United States’ acceptance of Syrian refugees. “I find when you have firsthand knowledge of things as opposed to secondhand, it makes a much stronger impression,” Carson told The New York Times. “I want to hear some of their stories, I want to hear from some of the officials what their perspective is.”
Earlier this week, Carson's campaign told The Daily Beast that a potential trip was "a bit premature and speculative at this point," which clearly could not have been the case. Communications manager Doug Watts has not responded to a request for comment from The Daily Beast about the trip.
Armstrong Williams, Carson's business manager, says he knew who was joining Carson on the trip as well as the itinerary of the venture. When asked who would be joining him, Williams simply responded "Confidential!" This comes less than a week after Carson told The Daily Beast that Williams is not involved in the campaign.
For their part, the UN Refugee Agency doesn't seem bothered by Carson's previous analogizing of Syrian refugees to "rabid dogs."
"We welcome visits by politicians to refugee situations so they can see first-hand the harsh conditions refugees live in and to hear about the horrors of the war and terror that drove them from their homes," Melissa Fleming, Chief Spokesperson for the UNHCR told The Daily Beast.
Courtland Robinson, the Deputy Director for the Center of Refugee and Disaster Response at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, expressed concern that the trip could turn into an opportunity to gain favorable press.
"My fear is that Dr. Carson, the candidate for the GOP nomination, will use this trip as little more than a PR stunt to demonstrate foreign policy “expertise” and will come back with all his pre-conceived notions confirmed that Syrian refugees are a terrorist threat and we should treat them the same way one treats rabid dogs," Robinson said.
"My hope is that Dr. Carson, the scientist whose career has focused on healing and saving lives, will do some real research on who the refugees are, why they are fleeing war and terrorism, how they are vetted and screened, and might return with a new perspective that it is consistent with American interests and values to admit some of them to this country."