Slideshow

9 Times Ben Carson Didn’t Care About Polit­ic­al Cor­rect­ness

The pediatric neurosurgeon has a long history of tough, unpopular talk.

It’s all fun and games until someone loses the White House.

Since Ben Carson checked into the presidential race, he’s brought with him a well-organized fundraising machine, a fanatical following, and a conservative celebrity status that’s worth millions in word-of-mouth advertising. Part of that celebrity status comes from a career as a pediatric neurosurgeon, part from his hard-line conservative worldview, and part from his 2013 national political introduction when he lambasted President Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast while the leader of the free world sat just a few chairs away.

And then, of course, there’s his long record of bombastic political quotes, full of references to Nazis, slavery, and upcoming totalitarian takeovers. For Carson, those are statements he can make because, in political terms, he has little to lose. Barring a miracle shakeup of the political system, he won’t become president, and he won’t be the nominee. And as he has already made clear: “I don’t care about political correctness.”

But for more viable Republican contenders, Carson’s quotes have an uncomfortable spillover effect: One moment they’re trying to talk tax policy and a plan to beat ISIS—the next they’re getting asked about a rival candidate’s discussion of prison sex and homosexuality. And in response, they have to find an answer that toes the conservative line needed to keep pace with the party base without venturing into territory that threatens their viability in the general election. And in a primary race as competitive as the GOP’s 2016 scramble, a small slip is enough to send one to the back of a long line of skilled contenders.

Carson has said he won’t be drawn into the types of social-issue conversations that have landed him at the center of past controversies, but if past is prologue, he’ll find the temptation hard to resist. Here are the quotes at the center of his biggest dust-ups.

On whether being gay is a choice: "Because a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight—and when they come out, they're gay. So, did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question." AP Photo/John Locher
On political correctness: "I mean, [our society is] very much like Nazi Germany. And I know you're not supposed to say 'Nazi Germany,' but I don't care about political correctness. You know, you had a government using its tools to intimidate the population. We now live in a society where people are afraid to say what they actually believe." AP Photo/Jim Cole
On the IRS: "You know, we live in a Gestapo age, people don't realize it." AP Photo/John Locher
On Advanced Placement history class: "I think most people, when they finish that course, they'd be ready to go sign up for ISIS." AP Photo/Mike Kittrell
On veterans dying waiting for medical care from the Department of Veterans Affairs: "I think what's happening with the veterans is a gift from God to show us what happens when you take layers and layers of bureaucracy and place them between the patients and the health care provider. And if we can't get it right, with the relatively small number of veterans, how in the world are you going to do it with the entire population?" AP Photo/Mary Schwalm
On Obamacare: "You know, Obamacare is really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. And it is, in a way—it is slavery in a way because it is making all of us subservient to the government." AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
On Obama's appearance: When a colleague said the president "looks clean. Shirt's white. The tie. He looks elegant," Carson responded: "Like most psychopaths. That's why they're successful. That's the way they look. They all look great." He later said: "But he knows he's telling a lie! He's trying to sell what he thinks is not true! He's sitting there saying, 'These Americans are so stupid I can tell them anything.'" AP Photo/Bullit Marquez
On similarities between the Founding Fathers, who were "willing to die for what they believed," and ISIS: "They've [ISIS] got the wrong philosophy, but they're willing to die for what they believe, while we're busily giving away every value and every belief for the sake of political correctness." AP Photo/Steve Helber
On the importance of the GOP winning the Senate in 2014: In August, Carson said he couldn't be sure "there will even be an election in 2016" if Republicans didn't go on to win that fall. (His wife also said they were keeping their son's Australian passport handy if the election didn't go their way.) AP Photo/Morry Gash
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