DETROIT – Dr. Ben Carson announced his candidacy for president on a cloudy Monday morning in his hometown of Detroit with the underlining message: Heal, inspire, revive. As he declared his White House bid to roaring applause, Carson said, “I’m not even asking everyone to vote for me, I’m asking everyone to listen.”
Carson – an African-American conservative celebrity known for his blunt rhetoric and his diversity in a party criticized for being predominantly white – pitched himself as an anti-politician and someone who knows what it’s like to struggle and succeed.
“I gotta tell you something: I’m not politically correct. I’m not gonna be politically correct because I’m not a politician and I don’t wanna be a politician,” he told the crowd to big cheers.
Carson largely shied from policy proposals – hinting that he’ll announce some in the coming weeks – but vowed to fundamentally rework Washington and government.
“I have a strong desire to get rid of programs that create dependency in able-bodied people,” he said, calling welfare programs socialism.
Born into poverty to an illiterate, single mother, Carson worked his way out of Detroit and went on to be an internationally renowned neurosurgeon, leading a team of 140 to perform the first-ever successful separation of cranially conjoined twins in 1987. Last year, he tied for sixth as the most-admired man in America. Does it sound like a movie? It is: Cuba Gooding Jr. portrayed Carson in the 2009 TV movie, “Gifted Hands.”
The event – at the handsome, old Detroit Music Hall Center for Performing Arts – included two musical acts; a gospel rendition of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” was sung, along with some more predictable tunes – which were far better received than the Detroit rapper’s song. (After the address, Carson dodged a question from a local reporter on whether or not he was an Eminem fan; “I certainly know who he is,” Carson replied.)
The former neurosurgeon broke news of his bid yesterday in a pre-taped interview with a local television network. “I’m willing to be part of the equation and therefore, I’m announcing my candidacy for president of the United States of America,” Carson told a local Ohio news station.
His announcement last night made him the fourth Republican to announce a bid; former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina announced her bid earlier on Monday morning and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is expected to announce on Tuesday. The three will double the GOP presidential field, which already includes Sens. Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz.
Carson first emerged on the national political stage in 2013 when he delivered a speech at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast, lecturing President Obama over debt and the Affordable Care Act. Fox News promptly anointed Carson as the next big thing and soon after hired him as a contributor. Since then, he’s won a handful of straw polls in the like Iowa’s Polk County and Western Conservatives Summit in Colorado and performed well in straw polls at the annual Values Voter and CPAC.
But while Carson earns accolades from the tea party crowd, he’s shunned by moderates for far-right view: he’s likened being gay to pedophilia, compares America today to Nazi Germany, and has said Obamacare is akin to slavery. Carson also doesn’t believe in evolution and has called abortion human sacrifice.