Ben Carson: Of Course Charleston Shooting Was Racially Motivated

06/22/2015 09:31 am ET | Updated Jun 22, 2015

Presidential contender Ben Carson urged Americans to face facts regarding the shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina: It was motivated by racial hatred.

The celebrated neurosurgeon -- and only African-American in the 2016 race for the White House -- said it was best to diagnose the problem immediately, rather than engage in an "interpretive dance" so as to not offend some Americans.

"Let's call this sickness what it is, so we can get on with the healing. If this were a medical disease, and all the doctors recognized the symptoms but refused to make the diagnosis for fear of offending the patient, we could call it madness. But there are people who are claiming that they can lead this country who dare not call this tragedy an act of racism, a hate crime, for fear of offending a particular segment of the electorate," he wrote in a USA Today op-ed published Monday, referring to statements made by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), his rival for the GOP presidential nomination, in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.

Graham said in a later statement that there is "no doubt" the attack was racially motivated. Other Republicans also had steered clear of the issue of race in their comments immediately after the shooting.

Carson called for a broader conversation about race with younger Americans so as to not "perpetuate this sickness into the next generation and the next." He also chided politicians, who are "often quick to try to score political points, look for scapegoats and easy answers," for failing to lead on the matter.

The shooting set off another debate -- what to do about a Confederate flag flying outside the South Carolina statehouse. Photos emerged over the weekend of the alleged shooter, Dylann Roof, posing with the symbol of the Confederacy that many also view as steeped in racism.

The 2016 Republican field has stepped gingerly around the issue, using careful language, such as urging South Carolina do "the right thing," without explicitly saying the flag should come down. Most Republican candidates have said that, ultimately, the decision is best left up to the people of South Carolina.

Carson did the same in an interview with Fox News.

"The Confederate flag causes a lot of people angst and they are not able to see beyond that," Carson said. "I think the people of South Carolina should sit down and have an intelligent discussion about what can they use that captures their heritage, captures the heritage of America and allows them to coexist in peace."

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