WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina – Ben Carson on Tuesday said he’s fine with people flying the Confederate flag, as long as they do it on private property.
“I am not opposed to anybody doing whatever they want to do on their private property,” he told reporters following his campaign stop at a Baptist Church here.
Carson said, “we’ve already talked about the Confederate flag issue way too much,” calling it “old news.”
“But as a general principle,” he added, “people can do whatever they want on their private property, that’s one of the basic tenets of freedom in America.”
The retired neurosurgeon has previously said he has personal experience with the Confederate flag, recounting to CNN that a neighbor flew the flag “as a message to us” when he moved down the street. He said, however, the neighbor took the flag down when others in the neighborhood flew American flags and “shamed the individual.”
His comments Tuesday followed an interview with the Associated Press in which he weighed in on the controversy over NASCAR asking fans to stop flying the flag at races.
Carson on Monday appeared at a campaign stop with NASCAR legend Richard Petty — who dismissed the controversy over the flag — earlier that day. Carson told the AP that fans can fly the flag “if it’s private property and that’s what they want to do.”
“Swastikas are a symbol of hate for some people, too. And yet they still exist in museums and places like that,” Carson said.
His defense of the right for individuals to fly Confederate flags on private property was hardly unexpected for the rising GOP star, who is virtually tied with Donald Trump for first place in the most recent NBC/WSJ GOP primary survey. Carson has won that support in part because of his willingness to “stand up to the P.C. police,” as he put it in his speech to the religious conservatives gathered for his event, and on Tuesday didn’t disappoint.
The surging 2016 candidate invoked the silence that allowed the Holocaust to occur in making his case to stand up to the “P.C. police;” accused President Woodrow Wilson of starting a “socialist agenda” that “just kept creeping up” through Lyndon Johnson’s presidency; and called progressives racist, accusing them of “demonizing” people “like me” for being African-American and holding different beliefs.
“They feel that if you belong to a certain race you have to think a certain way. They don’t believe that if you are black you have the ability to be an independent thinker,” Carson said. “You know what that’s called? Racism.”
Carson played to the conservative crowd on issues ranging from television — which he said is “leading to a lot of our problems, and the internet is really no better” — to women having children out of wedlock, one of a number of “societal problems that are weakening us.”
And the crowd adored the candidate, erupting in applause and cheers multiple times and enjoying the frequent jokes peppered throughout his speech.
Carson demurred, however, when asked about about Carly Fiorina’s comment that waterboarding keeps Americans safe, refusing to answer whether he agreed with her because “the techniques we use to keep our country safe are our business and nobody else’s.”
“As commander in chief, I would not be blabbing to everybody what we will do and what we won’t do,” he added.
And while he called for “the right people in [Congressional] leadership, who understand the principles of morality,” Carson didn’t call for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s resignation over the failure of congressional Republicans to defund Planned Parenthood.
“I think the Senate should make that decision [whether McConnell should be Leader] and I think he should keep his ears open,” Carson said.