Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson on Monday defended President Donald Trump’s attacks on Baltimore, where he spent years as a pediatric neurosurgeon. Carson said that he dreaded sending his patients back to “infested” homes.
During an interview with Fox News opinion host Tucker Carlson, Carson said he “spent many hours, sometimes operating all night long,” to save the lives of the city’s children at Johns Hopkins Hospital, which sits in the majority-black district represented by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), another of Trump’s targets.
“But a few days later I was in a horrible dilemma, because some of those kids had to go back into homes in East Baltimore that were infested with rats and roaches and ticks and mold and lead and violence, and I didn’t want to send them back,” Carson said. “Sometimes I would even consider extra tests so they could stay in the hospital an extra day or two.”
On Saturday, Trump launched a torrent of insults via Twitter at Cummings, whom he called a “brutal bully,” and his district, which he derided as a “rodent infested mess.”
The scrutiny, which continued into the following week, has been widely condemned as racist, echoing the president’s attacks earlier this month on several congresswomen of color whom he urged to “go back” to “the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
Carson, the president’s only black cabinet member, did not share in the criticisms raised by Trump’s opponents, but offered a mild defense of Cummings’ character as well as the president’s.
“I don’t think Elijah Cummings is a bad person,” he said. “I think he actually is working hard to try to help people. And I certainly don’t think President Trump is a bad person. He’s working very hard.”
Carson added that he had asked Trump whether he would be open to working with Cummings to provide relief to Baltimore, and said the president replied that “he would be happy to.”
However, less than two hours after Carlson’s primetime slot ended, Trump was already back to another Twitter tirade, slamming Cummings’ tough stance against the treatment of migrants at the southern border.
Trump has also repeatedly suggested that the congressman, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, should have his district’s use of federal funding investigated, alleging without evidence that it is “corrupt.”
One critic likely unsatisfied with Carson’s response is “The View” co-host Sunny Hostin, formerly of Baltimore, who asked during her show Monday why the housing secretary had been silent.
“Ben, I’ve been to your house. I know you lived in Baltimore,” she said. “Where are you? Why are you not defending Baltimore?”