Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson on Sunday expressed skepticism over the purpose of the Black Lives Matter movement and refused to acknowledge that he made a mistake when calling the movement “silly.”
Last week, the neurosurgeon-turned-GOP presidential candidate said that Black Lives Matter is “silly” and “divisive.”
“We need to talk about what the real issues are and not get caught up in silliness like this matters or that matters,” he said. “Of course all lives matter. I don’t want to get into it. It’s so silly.”
On Sunday, Carson denied that he called the movement itself “silly” and clarified that he thinks the distinction between “black lives matter” and “all lives matter” is “political correctness going amuck.”
“Well, you know, I don't recall calling it silly, but what I called silly is political correctness going amuck. That's what's silly. When, you know, I guess it was Martin O'Malley who said, you know, ‘Black lives matter, white lives matter.’ He got in trouble for that and had to apologize. That's what I'm talking about is silly,” Carson said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
He was referring to an incident last month when Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley ignited controversy after he told Black Lives Matters protesters: “Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter.”
Carson added: “Of course all lives matter, and of course we should be very concerned about what's going on, particularly in our inner cities. It's a crime, you know, for a young black man, the most likely cause of death is homicide. That is a huge problem that we need to address in a very serious way.”
When host Chuck Todd reminded Carson that saying “all lives matter” diminishes the fact that blacks as a group are disproportionately targeted and mistreated by police, Carson suggested that people place too much blame on the police:
I think we need to look at the whole picture. One of the things that I always like to point out to people is how about we just remove the police for 24 hours. Can you imagine the chaos that would ensue? And the vast majority of police are very good people. Are there bad apples? Of course.
But if you hire a plumber and he does a bad job, do you say all plumbers are bad? Let's go out and kill them? I don't think we do that. We need to be a little more mature, but certainly in cases where police are doing things that are inappropriate, I think we ought to investigate those promptly and justice should be swift.
The Black Lives Matter movement has tried to bring racial discrimination and police brutality into the forefront of the presidential race. But with the exception of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who has sponsored criminal justice reform legislation in the Senate, the GOP presidential field has been largely silent on the problem of racial inequality. Those who have weighed in have appeared dismissive of the movement.
Like Carson, fellow GOP contender Jeb Bush also believes that O’Malley did not need to apologize for his remarks, telling reporters last month that “we're so uptight and so politically correct. Now you apologize for saying lives matter?"
Carson and Bush were the only Republican candidates to speak at last week’s National Urban League conference, an annual gathering of civil rights leaders. In their speeches, both candidates failed to directly address the concerns of the Black Lives Matter movement, shifting the focus away from specific issues like criminal justice reform to more general thoughts about race. Bush discussed his efforts to promote more black leaders when he was governor of Florida, while Carson recounted a childhood incident of racism.
Watch Carson’s comments in the clip above.
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