GREENVILLE, South Carolina — Ben Carson gave Donald Trump the benefit of the doubt on his decision not to correct a man who questioned President Obama’s religion and citizenship in New Hampshire, suggesting Friday that Trump simply misheard the question and would handle it differently in the future.
“Certainly, one must always analyze the questions carefully. That’s something I have come to learn, because sometimes you just go into answering mode without thinking about it,” he said.
At a New Hampshire town hall Thursday night, a questioner denounced Muslims as a “problem” in the U.S. and named Obama as a follower of the religion. The man also referred to extremist training camps, asking “when can we get rid of them?” Trump responded, “We are going to be looking at that and plenty of other things,” and a spokeswoman issued three different statements clarifying his response.
Asked whether Trump should have corrected the questioner, Carson said: “I suspect that if he gets that question again, that’s exactly what he’ll do.” He also said he’d have corrected a question like that if asked.
The question for Trump doesn’t come as a total surprise — the business mogul himself has questioned whether the president was born in the U.S.
Carson, speaking to press after an address at an event for health care professionals in Greenville, South Carolina, again gave Trump some cover when asked whether the GOP presidential front-runner should, once and for all, disavow “birtherism.”
“I haven’t heard him say that recently. I hope he doesn’t still think that,” Carson said.
He also defended his performance in Wednesday night’s debate, which critics panned as too timid and reserved for the center-stage spot given to the fast-rising candidate, who’s now polling second in the field. Carson declined opportunities to attack Trump and the rest of the field, and delivery of even his most practiced lines was at times halting and uneven. Most saw former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who jabbed sharply at a number of opponents and took direct aim at Hillary Clinton and Obama, as the night’s clear winner.
Carson said it’s not his persona to attack, and he believes voters will eventually look past his style and be won over by his ideas.
“I’m not a fire-breathing dragon, and over the course of time people will come to actually listen to what I’m talking about and it doesn’t have to be said in a loud and brash way,” he said.
Carson dismissed the overall spectacle of the debate, calling it “sad” that “we’ve deteriorated to a situation where we all have to feel like circus performers,” and took an implicit jab at Trump, who Fiorina and others have denounced as merely an “entertainer” and not a credible candidate for president.
“We have really serious problems to deal with,” Carson said. “I actually have faith that over the course of time, the American people will recognize that and not just desire to be entertained or just look for the loudest or shiniest object…and recognize that, unless we get serious, we’re not going to solve our problems.”
This article first appeared on NBCNews.com.