Dr. Ben Carson

[Back to Election Central]



Dr. Ben Carson served as the youngest-ever Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD where he gained notoriety for successfully separating conjoined twins. In 2008, President George W. Bush awarded Dr. Carson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of his ground-breaking work in pediatric surgery. After 28 years at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Dr. Carson retired from medicine in 2013 and has since launched a political career. He is the author of six bestselling books about his life and career. He is a popular figure among Tea Party conservatives and is well known for his comments at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast. Dr. Carson declared his campaign for the Republican nomination in May 2015 in his home town of Detroit.   

On the Issues

AAI tracks statements, non-statements, and the track records of each presidential candidate on the issues we care about most. Click on an issue to read what Ben Carson has said on the campaign trail. For our take on why these are the 12 issues that are most important to our community, read here.


Foreign Policy     

Domestic Policy


U.S. Role in the Middle East 

Voting Rights 


U.S. Response to ISIL

Civil Rights + Civil Liberties








Community Policing




Bigoted Speech


Iran Negotiations 

Immigration Reform

Key Advisors

  • Barry Bennett: Campaign Manager. Bennett advised Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and most recently worked at a polling firm ran by Mary Cheney, former Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter.
  • Ryan Rhodes: Iowa Director. Rhodes has worked on Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R, MN-6) 2012 presidential campaign and on a number of congressional campaigns.

SuperPac Endorsements: The 2016 Committee, the National Draft Ben Carson Committee, One Vote PAC, USA First PAC.


The U.S. Role in the Middle East

“You know, I was not particularly in favor of us going to war in Iraq, primarily because I have studied, you know, the Middle East, recognizing that those are nations that are ruled by dictators and have been for thousands of years. And when you go in and you remove one of those dictators, unless you have an appropriate plan for replacing them, you’re going to have chaos”(Debate Transcript, 2/13/16)

On what he recommended to President George W. Bush before the 2003 Iraq war decision was made, Carson suggested that the president could done better to "Declare that within five to 10 years we will become petroleum independent. The moderate Arab states would have been so concerned about that, they would have turned over Osama bin Laden and anybody else you wanted on a silver platter within two weeks. There are smart ways to do things and there are muscular ways to do things. And sometimes you have to look at both of those to come up with the right solution."

"If we learn to lead in the Middle East right now, a coalition will form behind us, but never they do it if we just sit there and talk about it." (September 2015, 2nd Republican Debate)

“We need to recognize that the Shia in Iran are every bit as dangerous, perhaps more dangerous than the Sunni al-Qaeda.”(February 2015, CPAC)

U.S. Response to ISIL

“Our country faces grave national security threats. We must act boldly and decisively to protect American citizens from terrorists at home and abroad.We can no longer dawdle while ISIS continues to persecute Christians, enslave young girls, oppress civil societies and perpetrate terrorist attacks against the free world. We must destroy their caliphate and prevent their terrorists from infiltrating our homeland. We must also secure our borders, identify radical Islamic extremism by name and root out its agents and collaborators in our own country. My ‘Seven Steps for a Safer America’ offers a path forward for confronting these threats and protecting this great country.”(December 2015, Ben Carson)

"If you go into Hasakah province in northeast Syria, that’s an area that’s as big as Lebanon. It’s controlled by the Kurds, the Christians and the moderate Sunnis. And there are airstrips and hotels. You could settle a lot of people there. All we would have to do is be willing to provide them with some weaponry, some defensive weaponry… And if we would support them, we’d have a perfect ideal there. We don’t need to set this up as we either take a bunch of refugees who will be infiltrated with terrorists, I guarantee you." (December 2015, CNN GOP Debate)

"We have to destroy their caliphate because that gives them legitimacy to go ahead with the global Jihad. We have to take their energy because they are — ISIS is the richest terrorist organization there is. We have to take their oil, shut down all of the mechanisms whereby they can disperse money… Do the same kind of thing that we did with Sinjar a few weeks ago, working with our embedded special forces with the Kurds, shut off the supply route, soften them up, then we go in with specials ops followed by our air force to take them over. Those are things that work." (December 2015, CNN GOP Debate)

"And people are worried about if somebody’s going to say that I’m Islamophobic or what have you. This is craziness because we are at war. That’s why I asked congress, go ahead and declare the war. We need to be on a war footing. We need to understand that our nation is in grave danger. You know, what the Muslim Brotherhood said in the explanatory memorandum that was discovered during the Holy Land Foundation Trial was that, 'they will take advantage of our PC attitude to get us.' We have to be better than this. We have to be smarter than they are." (December 2015, CNN GOP Debate)

"I think America's involvement should be trying to eliminate [jihadis] - completely destroy them. Boots on the ground would probably be important because... we have not really seen much of a coalition form, but that's because there's no leadership." (November 2015, Campaign Statement)

"I normally encourage conversation and compromise where possible, but how does one negotiate or compromise with someone who desires your elimination? Maybe if you meet some of their demands, they will only dismember you or kill you more slowly. Obviously, the expansion of groups like the Islamic State represents an existential threat to our own nation and our way of life. If ever there was a time to work together for self-preservation, the time is now. There really is no time to squabble about who was right and who was wrong in the past regarding our activities in the Middle East. Our enemies will use every opportunity to divide us and distract us, which will make their jobs of destroying us much easier." (September 2014, The Washington Times)

"I'm a peaceful person - but it doesn't make any sense to sit around and let somebody wipe you out." (August 2015, Phoenix, AZ Rally Speech)

"Well first of all you have to recognize they go back thousands and thousands of years. Really back to the battle between Jacob and Esau. But it has been a land issue for a very long period of time. Possession is very important to them and one of the things that we’re doing I think incorrectly right now is not recognizing that they are expanding their territory. Not only the land that they’ve taken in Iraq, but what they’ve taken in Syria. They are creating an Islamic State. And we can bomb it all we want, but unless we actually can take the land back, we’re really not doing them any damage." (May 2015, Hugh Hewitt Radio)

“We can sit back and say, ‘Nah, they’re not that big a deal,’ or we can recognize that the longer we allow them to grow, to spread, to root – get their roots well established – the more difficult it will be to eradicate them… We have to eradicate them now. We have to use every means possible to do that.” (March 2015, The Hill)


“While many of us were troubled by the President’s decision at the time, given the events in Paris Friday night, there can be no disputing the fact that the United States cannot, should not, and must not accept any Syrian refugees, let alone the dramatically larger number President Obama volunteered to host.” (November 2015, Letter to Speaker Ryan)

"Congress I think should defund all the programs that allow all these people to be here. Immediately. Today." (November 2015, Conference in Nevada)

"If we're going to be bringing 200,000 people over here from that region—if I were one of the leaders of the global jihadist movement and I didn't infiltrate that group of people with my people, that would be almost malpractice." (November 2015, Sunshine Summit)

"Bringing people into this country from that area of the world is a huge mistake because why wouldn't they infiltrate [refugee groups] with people who are ideologically opposed to us? It would be foolish for them not to do that... We should use our resources to help get them settled over there, but to bring them here under these circumstances is a suspension of intellect... The reason the human brain has these big frontal lobes as opposed to other animals is because we can engage in rational thought processing... Animals have big brain stems and rudimentary things because they just react. We don't have to react, we can think." (November 2015, Fox News interview)

"To bring into this country groups infiltrated with jihadists makes no sense… At some point you have to use common sense and judgment. If you are part of the global jihadist movement, and you see large numbers of people from your area moving into the United States, wouldn't you want to infiltrate them?” (October 2015, Iowa campaign event)

“I don’t think we should back down from Putin right now. He needs to understand that if he continues with this activity [in Syria], we are going to use all the facilities available to us — including financial facilities — to inflict pain on him...We need to make him aware that we’re not going to alter our flight patterns or be restricted by anything he says. I would [also] establish a no-fly zone along the Turkish border [with Syria]...We don’t want the forces to be in juxtaposition." (October 2015, Fox News)

“I believe we should encourage the various countries in that region… Turkey, the Arabian Peninsula… to take those refugees in, and we should be willing to perhaps help them financially and with some expertise, but the fact of the matter is we don’t know who those people are and the majority of them are young males and they could easily be people who are being infiltrated by terrorists and recognize that once you bring them in then you’ve got to bring other members of the family in, as well, so you’re multiplying that number substantially. This is not something we can necessarily afford to do in terms of exposing our population to that kind of risk right now…. We have the same screening process now [from 2002]. Unless we improved it very, very substantially to the point where we could virtually guarantee that we were not importing terrorists, it seems like an inappropriate thing to do at this stage when we have countries over there that aren’t taking in refugees. We don’t have a very good way to screen people who may have a proclivity for the development of radicalization so why do we want to expose our population to that if we don’t have to and when we can encourage and support others to do it?” (September 2015, CNN interview)

When asked how he would like to see the U.S. government respond to the Syrian refugee crisis, Carson said, "I would recognize that bringing in people from the Middle East right now carries extra danger. I know we have a process, but how effective is it? How does it, you know, let people like the Tsarnaev brothers in here?...We cannot put our people at risk because we're trying to be politically correct." (September 2015, ABC News interview)


"And as far as Israel is concerned, you know, when I was there several months ago, I talked to a lot of people. I couldn’t find a single one who didn’t think that we had turned our backs on Israel. You know, they are a strategic partner for us but also recognize that we have a Judeo Christian foundation, and the last thing we need to do is to reject Israel. It doesn’t mean that we can’t be fair to other people. We can always be fair to other people, but, you know, it’s like when you have a child, you know, you want to be fair to all the children around but you have a special attention for your own child." (February 26, 2016, CNN Republican Debate in Houston)

“The instability that has consumed Syria [presents a] growing danger to Israel, our longtime ally in the Middle East. The U.S. must stand with Israel to ensure her safety.” (October 2015, Breitbart News)

“I don’t have any problem with the Palestinians having a state, but does it need to be within the confines of Israeli territory? Is that necessary, or can you sort of slip that area down into Egypt?... So why does it need to be in an area where there’s going to be temptation for Hamas to continue firing missiles at relatively close range to Israel?” (March 2015, Bloomberg)

“The United States of America has had a special relationship with Israel ever since we were the very first nation to recognize her creation. The depth of our unique bond with Israel has only strengthened over the years. Israel is our only democratic ally in the Middle East. She is surrounded by nations that threaten her very existence. We can never let her enemies believe that our deep commitment to Israel’s peace and security will waver.” (2015, bencarson.com)


No statements recorded. If you'd like to submit a statement to appear on this website, please email Kristin McCarthy.

Iran Nuclear Deal 

On the Iran nuclear deal, Carson said, “Well I think anything is anti-Semitic that is against the survival of a state that is surrounded by enemies and by people who want to destroy them. And to sort of ignore that and to act like everything is normal there and that these people are paranoid, I think that’s anti-Semitic.” (August 2015, Fox News

"But just as shocking as the decision to actually agree to such a flawed deal are the lengths to which the administration is going today to tar and feather those who dare speak out against it. By playing politics with a critical national security issue, President Obama is cementing his well-earned legacy as the Divider in Chief." (August 2015, Jerusalem Post Op-Ed)

“With Iran, I would command that we have full inspection capabilities. Either you have open inspections or you don’t, and if they don’t cooperate with open inspections, you slap on the most severe sanctions possible, and you consider all other options as well.” (March 2015, Breitbart)

Voting Rights

"Of course I want the Voting Rights Act to be protected. Whether we still need it or not or whether we've outgrown the need for it is questionable. Maybe we have, maybe we haven't. But I wouldn't jeopardize it." (October 2015, CNN interview)

Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

"As far as religious freedom is concerned, one of the basic tenets of this nation, and I believe that the Constitution protects all of our rights. And it gives people who believe in same-sex marriage the same rights as everybody else. But what we have to remember is even though everybody has the same rights, nobody get extra rights. So nobody gets to redefine things for everybody else and then have them have to conform to it. That’s unfair. And this is the responsibility of Congress to come back and correct what the Supreme Court has done. That’s why we have divided government. And we’re going to have to encourage them to act in an appropriate way, or we will lose our religious freedom." (February 26, 2016, CNN Republican Debate in Houston)

On whether he'd bring back waterboarding and enhanced interrogation: “Alright. You know, what we do in order to get the information that we need is our business, and I wouldn't necessarily be broadcasting what we're going to do. We've gotten into this -- this mindset of fighting politically correct wars. There is no such thing as a politically correct war. The left, of course, will say Carson doesn't believe in the Geneva Convention, Carson doesn't believe in fighting stupid wars. And I've talked to a lot of the generals, a lot of our advanced people. And believe me, if we gave them the mission, which is what the commander-in-chief does, they would be able to carry it out. And if we don't tie their hands behind their back, they will do it extremely effectively.” (August 2015, Fox GOP Debate)

Regarding racial tensions: “Well, I think the bully pulpit is a wonderful place to start healing that divide. You know, we have the purveyors of hatred who take every single incident between people of two races and try to make a race war out of it, and drive wedges into people. And this does not need to be done.” (August 2015, Fox GOP Debate)

“Of course all lives matter. I don’t want to get into it, it’s so silly…Black lives are part of all lives, right? When we’re talking about a culture of life, then we ought to be talking about a culture of life and not allow ourselves to get caught up in all the divisive rhetoric and terminology and political correctness. It’s the reason we can’t make any progress as a society.” (August 2015, Freedom’s Journal Institute event)

In speaking about the reaction of other Republican Presidential candidates to the tragic events in Charleston, South Carolina, Mr. Carson stated, “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. Let’s not delude ourselves here. If we teach them it is ok to deny racism exists, even when it’s plainly staring them in the face, then we will perpetuate this sickness into the next generation and the next.” (June 2015, New York Times)

“I fear our tolerance of one another is the new battle ground of evil. Today many feel it is ok to hate someone who thinks different than you do … As a brain surgeon I can assure you that all of our brains look the same no matter what our skin color or party affiliation.” (June 2015, The Daily Beast)

“I was a little bit irritated that he was equating the whole [gay marriage] issue with the Civil Rights movement. Because, quite frankly, I didn't remember any times when there were signs up that says, you know, 'everybody else here and gay people have to drink at this fountain." (June 2015, CNN News)

"Why do gay people want to get married? Because they want to have various rights," he said. "Property rights, visitation rights--why can't any two human beings, I don't care what their sexual orientation is, why can't they have the legal right to do those things?" (March 2015, Politico)


When asked if he agrees with Apple CEO Tim Cook that the court order forcing Apple to create a backdoor would be bad for America, Dr. Carson responded "I think allowing terrorist to get away with things is bad for America. You know, we have the — we have a Constitution. We have a Fourth Amendment. It guards us against illegal and unreasonable search and seizure. But we have mechanisms in place with the judicial system that will allow us to gain material that is necessary to benefit the nation as a whole or the community as a whole. And that’s why we have FISA courts and things of that nature. So absolutely, I would — I would expect Apple to comply with the court order. If they don’t comply with that, you’re encouraging chaos in our system." (February 26, 2016, CNN Republican Debate in Houston)

"Now, as far as monitoring is concerned, what my point is, we need to make sure that any place – I don’t care whether it’s a mosque, a school, a supermarket, a theater, you know it doesn’t matter. If there are a lot of people getting there and engaging in radicalizing activities then we need to be suspicious of it. We have to get rid of all this PC stuff." (December 2015, CNN GOP Debate)

At an event in Iowa, Carson said he was in favor of a "database on everybody who comes into this country," not just Muslims. (November 2015, Media Event in Iowa)

“We’re going to reduce the government by attrition. Thousands of people are going to retire each year. We’re not going to replace them. And in four to five years, the government would be down to the size that it needs to be. We will begin to look at how we can use our technology to become an informed populace again, the way we can use virtual classrooms and things of that nature.” (September 2015, Hugh Hewitt Show)

"The Patriot Act should definitely be extended. However, there was legitimate concern about the Fourth Amendment and, you know, gratuitous gathering of private information on American citizens without a cause. It’s very easy to get a warrant if one has reason to get that. It’ not a problem.” (June 2015, KMA Land)

"There are currently ways for our government to monitor the activities of suspicious individuals. You can get a court order very quickly when necessary. The security and privacy of our citizenry is paramount—one of the central [tenets] of our Constitution. But we can protect our national security without invading the rights of law-abiding citizens." (May 2015, campaign statement)

Community Policing

"It is very important that police are taught to be respectful of everybody. My point is we need to make sure respect is offered in both directions.” (September 2015, Speech in Ferguson)

"The notion that some lives might matter less than others is meant to enrage. That anger is distracting us from what matters most. We're right to be angry, but we have to stay smart. Of course, the protesters are right that racial policing issues exist and some rotten policemen took actions that killed innocent people. Those actions were inexcusable and they should be prosecuted to deter such acts in the future. But unjust treatment from police did not fill our inner cities with people who face growing hopelessness. Young men and women can't find jobs. Parents don't have the skills to compete in a modern job market. Far too many families are torn and tattered by self-inflicted wounds. Violence often walks alongside people who have given up hope." (August 2015, USA Today op-ed)

“In no way am I saying that all the police are righteous, by no stretch of the imagination. And clearly we need to be dealing with that. But recognize that we’re dealing with a people problem. When you look at the Baltimore police force, it’s about as diverse as any police force you’re going to find in a big city. There may even be more minorities on that police force than there are non-minorities. The point being that inappropriate behavior comes in all colors, it’s not specific. And just because it comes by one color or another color doesn’t mean it should be ignored. It needs to be dealt with. We need to get to the bottom of any problems of discrimination. But the larger issue here is, how do you react when something is wrong? If you have an unpleasant experience with a plumber, do you go out and declare a war on all plumbers? Or teachers or doctors? Of course not. And it makes no sense to do that with police either.” (April 2015, GQ Magazine)

“We have to talk to both the police and we have to talk to the community. Both of them have to accept some degree of humility. The community has to admit that not everyone in that community is an angel.” (January 2015, Bloomberg)

Bigoted Speech: Instances of Condemnation and/or Use

*The Arab American Institute is leading a campaign to hold public officials accountable for their bigoted rhetoric this election cycle. Join us by signing our Pledge to Combat Bigotry, and use #NoBigotry on social media to hold candidates accountable and thank candidates who stand against it.*

In speaking about President Obama, Dr. Carson said "He's an 'African' American. He was, you know, raised white. Many of his formative years were spent in Indonesia. So, for him to, you know, claim that, you know, he identifies with the experience of black Americans, I think, is a bit of a stretch." (February 22,2016, Politico's "Off Message" podcast)

On Breitbert News, Daily Host Stephen Bannon asked whether Muslim beliefs are compatible with American values. In response, Carson responded by saying “Only if they’re schizophrenic. I don’t see how they can do it otherwise, because you have two different philosophies.” (Breitbart, 2/16/16)

During a campaign event, Carson compared Syrian refugees to rapid dogs, saying, "We must balance safety against just being a humanitarian. For instance, if there's a rabid dog running around in your neighborhood, you're probably not going to assume something good about that dog. And you're probably going to put your children out of the way." (November 2015, Campaign event in Alabama)

“I believe that our Constitution protects everybody, regardless of their sexual orientation or any other aspect. I also believe that marriage is between one man and one woman. And there is no reason that you can’t be perfectly fair to the gay community. They shouldn’t automatically assume that because you believe that marriage is between one man and one woman that you are a homophobe.” (October 2015, CNBC GOP Debate)

“We have got to stop paying attention to the ‘PC Police’ who say every lifestyle is exactly of the same value. No, it’s not of the same value. It is very clear that intact, traditional families with traditional, intact values do much better in terms of raising children. So let’s stop pretending that everything is of equal value.” (October 2015, SiriusXM News)

"If someone has a Muslim background and they're wiling to reject those tenets and accept the way of life that we have and clearly will swear to place our constitution above their religion, then of course they'll be considered infidels and heretic, but at least then I'd be quite willing to support them....What we have to recognize is that this is America, and we have a constitution and we don't put people at the leadership of our country whose faith will interfere with the carrying out the duties of the constitution. If you believe in a theocracy, I don't care if you're a Christian. If you're a Christian and you're running for president and you want to make us into a theocracy, I'm not going to support you." (September 2015, Fox News)

Asked whether his faith or the faith of a president should matter, Carson said, "It depends on what that faith is. If it's inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter. But if it fits within the realm of America and consistent with the constitution, no problem." Then asked if he (Carson) believes Islam is consistent with the constitution, he replied, "No, I don't, I do not," he responded, adding, "I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that." (September 2015, NBC News interview) 

“We will know that America has made substantial social progress when black Americans are not expected to adhere to any particular political philosophy, just as white Americans do not have a prescribed political doctrine to which they must adhere.” (August 2015, Washington Times)

“I think we are fighting radical Islam. There is no question about it. They have the same goal as they did when Mohammed was around. They want to dominate. And they want everyone else to submit to them. [They] don’t believe in live and let live like we do.” (May 2015, Fox News)

Immigration Reform

"But in terms of the people who are here already, after we — after we stop the illegal immigration, we need to be reasonable. And I would give them a six-month period in which to get registered as a guest worker, assuming that they have an acceptable record. They have to pay a back-tax penalty, have to pay taxes going forward, but they don’t have to live underground anymore. And I think they do not become American citizens, they do not vote. If they want to become an American citizen, they go through exactly the same process that anybody else goes through. I think that’s the kind of situation that is actually fair to people. And we have other ways of — of utilizing our facilities and our talents as foreign aid: doing things in South America and Central America and Mexico that improve the economy there, so that they don’t feel the need to come over here." (February 26, 2016, CNN Republican Debate in Houston)

“Now, I recognize that the vast majority of people coming in here probably are not those kinds of people but that’s not good enough. If you’ve got 10 people coming in to your house and you know that one of them is a terrorist, you’re probably going to keep them all out.” (New York Times, 1/28/16)

"Today I am urging you and your colleagues in the Republican Leadership to move legislation through the U.S. House of Representatives this week that terminated all public funding for any ongoing federal programs that seek to resettle refugees and/or migrants from Syria into the United States, effective immediately." (November 2015, Letter to Speaker Ryan)

"Now, what we need to do is look at something that actually works. Yuma County, Arizona. They stop 97 percent of the illegal immigrants through there. They put in a double fence with a road so that there was quick access by the enforcement people. If we don’t seal the border, the rest of this stuff clearly doesn’t matter. It’s kind of ridiculous all the other things we talk about. We have the ability to do it, we don’t have the will to do it. There was one area where they had cut a hole in the fence, and to repair it, they put a few strands of barb wire across. Well, the photographers who were there with us, they wanted to photograph us from the side of the Mexicans, and they went through there, and they were not physically fit people, and they took their cameras and things with them, and shot us from the other side. That’s how easy it is to get across. And, the drugs, I mean, it goes on, and on, and on. ICE tells them to release these people, 67,000 criminals released…"

Commenting on Donald Trump's immigration policy, Carson said, "It sounds really cool, you know, 'Let's just round them all up and send them back. People who say that have no idea what that would entail in terms of our legal system, the costs — forget about it. Plus, where you gonna send them? It's a double whammy." (September 2015, Fox News)

"The 14th Amendment has been brought up recently about anchor babies, and it doesn't make any sense to me, that people can come in here and have a baby and that baby becomes an American citizen and allows them to come in. There are many countries in the world where they simply have recognized that and don't allow that to occur." (August 2015, Arizona rally)

“We do have an immigration problem that would be solved if you sealed the borders and ceased the benefits, so that people would not see a reason to come here … However as a compassionate nation and compassionate people, we should say what we can do to help the people in nations who feel they don’t have the opportunity in their nation.” (June 2015, MSNBC)