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Ben Carson Backs Trump, Says Baltimore Homes Were 'Infested' With Rats, Roaches

HUD Secretary Ben Carson said he asked President Trump whether he would be willing to work with Rep. Elijah Cummings to bring relief to Baltimore. Carson says Trump responded he would be "happy to."
Alex Brandon
HUD Secretary Ben Carson said he asked President Trump whether he would be willing to work with Rep. Elijah Cummings to bring relief to Baltimore. Carson says Trump responded he would be "happy to."

President Trump gave a shoutout to his Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson on Tuesday during his remarks at a ceremony marking 400 years of American democracy in the historic Virginia town of Jamestown.

"We're also very thankful as well to have with us Secretary Ben Carson. Ben, thank you very much wherever you may be."

A day earlier, Carson, the Trump administration's only African American Cabinet member, was on Fox News defending the president's depiction of Baltimore as a "very dangerous and filthy place."

Carson, a former Baltimore resident, rose to prominence as a renowned pediatric neurosurgeon at the city's Johns Hopkins Hospital. Carson told Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson that while practicing medicine there, he often faced a "horrible dilemma" over whether to send young patients home after he operated on them.

"Because some of those kids had to go back into homes in East Baltimore that were infested with rats and roaches and ticks and mold and lead and violence, and I didn't want to send them back," Carson said.

"Sometimes I would even consider extra tests so they could stay in the hospital an extra day or two."

Trump in recent days has been severely criticized for his inflammatory tweets directed at Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, the House oversight committee chairman, whose district includes parts of Baltimore.

"No human being would want to live there," Trump tweeted over the weekend. Another tweet referred to Charm City as a "disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess."

Those tweets came after the president told a group of freshman female members of Congress known as " the squad" to "go back" to the countries they came from. And they came before new tweets calling civil rights activist and media personality Al Sharpton a "con man" who "Hates Whites & Cops!"

At the White House on Tuesday before departing for Jamestown, Trump pushed back on the assertion that his characterization of Baltimore was racist and reiterated his stance that he's the "least racist person" in the world.

He also said thousands of African Americans have thanked him, adding they were "happy as hell" that Trump's was highlighting "the corrupt politics of Baltimore."

He offered no evidence to support that claim.

But he did make a suggestion: "What Elijah Cummings should do is, he should take his oversight committee, bring them down to Baltimore...and really study the billions and billions of dollars that's been stolen."

Trump told reporters he would visit Baltimore "at the right time," something Carson, the HUD secretary alluded to in his Fox News interview.

"I don't think Elijah Cummings is a bad person, I think he actually is working hard to try to help people and I certainly don't think President Trump is a bad person," Carson said. "In fact, I asked him today, would you be willing to work with Elijah Cummings to bring some relief to the people of Baltimore? He said he would be happy to."

On NPR's Morning Edition Monday, Brandon Scott, the president of the Baltimore City Council, said the president's comments were racist. But added what should be the focus is how the president is going to help residents.

"This president could help Baltimoreans by delivering on his promise, campaign promise, to bring infrastructure improvements to the city, which would not only rebuild us in a physical sense but could help people in West Baltimore, in East Baltimore achieve careers and jobs," Scott said of Trump, before including a dig at Carson.

"Instead, he and his HUD director, who lived in Baltimore for decades and knows what we need here, each and every year are trying to eliminate HUD in its entirety. That's not what we need from a president."

Officials at HUD did not respond to NPR's request for comment.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Brakkton Booker is a National Desk reporter based in Washington, DC.
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