Dr. Ben Carson is struggling to explain odd comments he made about pro-lifers on CBS’s Face The Nation this weekend.
Carson, appearing on Megyn Kelly’s The Kelly File on Monday evening, tried to assuage the anger among pro-life leaders after his “hateful rhetoric” comments from the previous CBS interview with John Dickerson.
When Kelly asked if Carson wanted to dial back his original comments, he didn’t directly respond—instead pointing to his history as a pediatric neurosurgeon and as a pro-life leader.
What they need to do is look at my record. I’ve spent my whole life as a pro-life advocate, trying to save lives operating on little babies—premature babies, babies in the womb. And I don’t think any candidate has raised as much money for pro-life issues as I have. So when something is said as someone might interpret as trying to be anti-pro-life, that’s just silly.
When Kelly asked for examples of the “angry rhetoric” from pro-lifers, Carson said:
There are some pro-lifers who will say things like ‘I can understand why somebody would come into an abortion clinic and shoot it up’—you know, that’s kind of over the top. But in terms of saying things like ‘killing babies,’ I say that myself because that’s what it is. You can’t sanitize that. I don’t think that’s hateful rhetoric, that’s just the truth. But on the left side, they engage in such hateful rhetoric by saying that anybody who doesn’t want a woman to have an abortion is anti-woman. I think that’s very over the top and completely untrue.
Kelly followed up again by citing various quotes from pro-life leaders to Breitbart News on Monday about Carson’s interview, and then asking Carson if he was painting the “entire pro-life movement with the brush of ‘hateful rhetoric.’” Kelly specifically quoted Operation Rescue’s Troy Newman that Carson “had ended his presidential candidacy” and Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life who told Breitbart, “Carson had taken his talking points from Planned Parenthood.”
“No, I don’t think that I did at all,” Carson replied:
I’m talking about people who make statements over-the-top. But here’s the key point: One of the things that’s destroying America is that people will not sit down and talk. They want to just demonize each other. Somebody has to be the mature one. I think the appropriate people to do that are going to be the pro-life people because they have much better arguments. It’s very difficult for somebody who is pro-abortion to sit down and explain why it’s okay to take this little baby—who has features that we can all see, eyes and ears and hearts, and pull them apart.
Carson’s spokesman Doug Watts, in an interview on Tuesday, described as “baloney” charges made by one pro-life leader that Carson was using the talking points of Planned Parenthood.
“Clearly Dr. Carson understood that this is a man who had severe mental problems [the suspected Colorado Springs shooter Robert Lewis Dear] as well as other behavioral problems and that’s what was accountable for his alleged actions,” Watts said in the exclusive interview with Breitbart News. “He was not trying to associate extreme rhetoric with the pro-life movement as any kind of a cause…”
Watts is annoyed that pro-lifers are not cutting Carson any slack on this statement given his years of service to the pro-life movement.
“Here is a man who for over three decades has been a stalwart proponent of everything pro-life,” Watts said.
The pro-life movement has been able to count on him through thick and thin, by practice as well as word. I challenge any of them to name in that list you put in that article, to name one other person who has raised even half as much money for the movement and generated that kind of support for the movement as Dr. Carson has. They can’t name anyone. And to question his motives, his credentials, his words is rather insulting.
Watts said Carson had raised money for some of the pro-life leaders who criticized him in the past 48 hours.
Watts did not back away from the statements Carson made on the Kelly File, but argued essentially that Carson is being misinterpreted.
Asked to name pro-lifers who “understood” gun violence in abortion clinics, Watts said, “I think I could probably find you a couple examples but I’m not going to point fingers because it really diminishes what I just said. I think what he was trying to say is people get extreme in their dialogue and he thinks extreme dialogue doesn’t help anyone.”
Watts wants people to know that other than life, Carson stands for “civility,” what he calls one of Carson’s “hallmarks.”
“If you know him, you know he believes deeply in civility and that’s all he was saying,” Watts said.
Every situation where people are pointing and screaming and waving their arms for their positon is not as satisfactory as a civil discussion which will get us a lot further along. He believes very firmly that a civil discussion over abortion will always end up on the side of pro-life and that is what he means and that’s what’s in his heart and that’s what’s in his mind.
“For people to parse his words and slightly suggest or strongly suggest that he is using talking points from Planned Parenthood; I am sorry; I have nothing else to say except that’s just bullshit,” Watts added.
Watts said some of the comments from pro-life leaders were likely motivated by politics, that is, from those supporting other candidates.
Troy Newman of Operation Rescue, one such pro-life leader, actually ended up later apologizing to Carson over email after previously criticizing him in Breitbart News. In an email provided by the Carson campaign, Newman said: “Please forgive my recent public statements. I know what it’s like to receive friendly fire and it’s more hurtful than anything the far left can do to us. Thank you for being a champion for the pre-born children, and the Lord, in both word and deed. Carry on and God bless you.”
Pro-life leader Alveda King, the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, also came to Carson’s defense, whom she sees as a pro-life hero. And she agrees with the softer pro-life language Carson was calling for.
Follow Austin Ruse on Twitter @austinruse