"The left hates the right. The right hates the left. This attitude is poison."'
The suspect in the shooting, 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof, is currently in custody and investigators are looking into whether racial hatred was a motivation for the attack. In his statement, Carson acknowledges that "racial based hate" is a serious problem, but he suggests that ideological intolerance is a bigger one.
"I fear our intolerance of one another is the new battle ground of evil. Today many feel it is OK to hate someone who thinks differently than you do," Carson, a neurosurgeon who has never been elected to public office, wrote in a release from his campaign. "The left hates the right. The right hates the left. This attitude is poison. Poison that will sicken all of us."
"As a brain surgeon I can assure you that all of our brains look the same, no matter what our skin color or party affiliation," he added.
Carson, who is currently the only major African-American candidate competing for the presidency, has earned a reputation and a passionate conservative following for his provocative statements on immigration, race, sexuality and President Obama's signature health care legislation, the Affordable Care Act.
"As a brain surgeon I can assure you that all of our brains look the same, no matter what our skin color or party affiliation."'
The 2016 candidate has compared that law to slavery in the past and has been widely criticized for suggesting homosexuality is a choice. He recently told a CNN interviewer that he was tired of discussing "the gay issue." Carson's campaign has been subject to rumors of discord ever since four top advisers left last month. Still, he remains viable in much of the early 2016 polling: A recent national Monmouth University poll showed Carson leading the 2016 field for the GOP nomination.
His statement on the tragedy in Charleston makes no mention of gun violence or hate crimes. Instead, he implores his supporters to pray for the victims of the shooting and urges the nation to "heal" itself "before it is too late."
Carson sounded a similar note in an earlier statement: “We must remember that we are a pluralistic society with many components and many beliefs. If we are to live together peacefully and with prosperity, we must learn the true meaning of tolerance, and that it goes in both directions.”
Carson's comments are a break from most of his 2016 rivals, who largely stayed away from the issue of partisan politics when offering condolences to the community rocked by the shooting.