Baltimore church officials told HUD Secretary Ben Carson he didn’t have to go home, but he had to get the heck out of there after the politician and his staffers tried to hold a news conference on the premises to defend President Donald Trump‘s incendiary remarks against the city.
Newsweek reported that Carson and his crew arrived at a vacant lot owned by Morning Star Baptist Church on Wednesday, where they hoped to defuse backlash over Trump’s attacks against Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and the majority-Black district he represents. As Carson’s employees were setting up, church member Gregory Evans asked the group to leave, as they hadn’t received permission to use the location.
“It’s nothing personal,” Evans told The Baltimore Sun. “I didn’t know it was Secretary Carson. I just know there were a bunch of people over there that were taking over our site. [And] we said, ‘Why are they here?’ They’ve not even asked for permission to be here.”
Carson was displeased after the church sent him and his staffers packing to an adjacent alley, later citing the incident as an example of “animosity” that stifles solutions to the city’s problems.
“We just have all this animosity all the time,” Carson told reporters. “For instance, you guys know, you were setting up on this property, and right here is this church that said: ‘Get off our property.’ You know, a church? When we’re talking about helping the people. I mean, this is the level to which we have sunken as a society.”
“What I’m saying is, you know, we have a society in which people, instead of trying to be helpful, think only about themselves,” he said, after being asked to clarify his remarks. “That is a problem.”
The retired neurosurgeon and sole Black member of Trump’s cabinet spent much of the event addressing the controversy sparked by the president’s characterization of the city, which he called a “rodent and rat infested mess” where “no human being would want to live,” as part of his attacks on Rep. Cummings. The outburst is just the latest in Trump’s row against minority lawmakers and comes on the heels of another in which he told four congresswomen of color to “go back” to the countries they came from.
Many have denounced the comments as racist, but not Carson, who said Baltimore has serious problems that simply can’t be swept under the rug. He then proceeded to compare the city to a cancer-stricken patient.
“It’s sort of like a patient who has cancer: you can dress them up and put a nice suit on and try to ignore it, but that cancer is going to have a devastating effect,” said Carson, who spent 30 years as a director of pediatric neurosurgery at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University.
The Trump administration official said the city has made great improvements since the 1970’s, thanks to investments. There’s still work to be done, however, and he’s since been in talks with Trump about “what we can do in Baltimore.
“He’s very willing to work with people here in Baltimore, including with Elijah Cummings,” Carson added.