Carson says he won’t back off on offending some people

Gary Heinlein The Detroit News

Jackson — Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said Wednesday he wouldn’t back down from offending some people and said he would not support a Muslim for president who didn’t support the U.S. Constitution.

Carson said at stops in Jackson and Spring Arbor that he was unduly criticized for his comment that he wouldn’t back a Muslim for president. He blamed political correctness — the extreme avoidance of comments that are perceived as excluding or insulting groups of people who are discriminated against — for distorting his comments on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” news program on NBC.

Muslims who are “willing to put the Constitution above their ideology” are acceptable to him as presidential candidates, said Carson, the retired pediatric neurosurgeon and Detroit native.

The African-American candidate, who is running second to real estate developer Donald Trump in national polls, came under fire after saying Sunday that he would “not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.” He said Islam is not consistent with the Constitution — an apparent reference to sharia law.

In an interview with Fox News Monday, Carson expanded his position to say he would be open to a moderate Muslim presidential candidate who denounced radical Islam. But he also said he stood by his original comments, saying the country cannot elect people “whose faith might interfere with carrying out the duties of the Constitution.”

Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson speaks in the gymnasium at Spring Arbor University on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015.

Carson continued his attack on political correctness Wednesday afternoon in a speech to an estimated 3,000 at the fieldhouse of Spring Arbor University, founded as a Free Methodist Church college.

“I have no interest in being like everybody else and giving away all our values and principles for the sake of political correctness,” he said. Immigrants are welcome to come to America, “but we don’t need to change who we are,” the candidate said.

Carson criticized as “a mistake” the U.S. Supreme Court decision in June that created a right to same-sex marriage by striking down state bans on the practice. He added that he has no problem with adults making decisions about living together and obtaining “legal documents,” but said they shouldn’t be allowed to “impose their values” on others.

At the evangelical Christian university, Carson told stories about the religious beliefs of founding fathers George Washington and Ben Franklin and said the Constitution was signed following prayer.

“More than politics were involved in the establishment of this nation,” he said during his first political trip to Michigan since he kicked off his presidential campaign in Detroit on May 4.

He assigned his audience to do “homework” about the $18-trillion national debt and what he sees as government pervasiveness in their daily lives.

“Every single regulation costs us in terms of goods and resources,” Carson said.

“Your other assignment is to find out who your representatives are and if they are contributing to the driving up of the debt and, if they are, throw them out of office,” he said, drawing thunderous applause at the end of his speech.

Dale Seal, a retired English teacher from Jackson, attended the speech and liked what he heard.

“He speaks the truth and he’s very intelligent and he knows what to do to about cleaning up this nation,” said Seal, who was wearing a “Ben” sticker.

Seal said he’s worried about the economy and what he described as “the lack of respect for our principles and values, and that we’re not following the Constitution.”

Nancy Croumlich said she and her husband drove up from the South Bend, Indiana, area to hear Carson.

“My husband works in broadcasting and he took the day off, “ she said. “We felt there’s change in the air and want to hear from the various candidates.”

Croumlich was impressed by Carson but not yet ready to say she favors him over the 14 other candidates.

Earlier Wednesday at a press conference hosted at the plaque in Jackson marking the spot of the GOP’s birthplace in 1854, Carson also espoused a six-month tax amnesty to lure back $2 trillion he said U.S. corporations are keeping in overseas accounts where business taxes are lower.

The companies receiving tax amnesty would be required to hire people who are unemployed or on welfare, he said.

Carson, the only black candidate in the GOP or Democratic presidential primaries, added that “Republicans have done a far superior job of getting over racism than Democrats.” He played up the fact that Republicans were the original abolitionists who helped end slavery.

But the topic that has followed the campaign on every stop this week has been the Muslim controversy. Asked Tuesday by reporters in Ohio how he could recover it, he said: “The only way we fix that is fix the P.C. culture in our country,” referring to political correctness.

“We fix America, and we get people who actually start listening ... and stop trying to fit everything into a P.C. model,” he said.

A super political action committee supporting Carson called The 2016 Committee sent out Wednesday a fundraising message and defense of Carson.

“Ben Carson is right. A practicing Muslim who observes sharia law cannot serve as president,” said John Philip Sousa IV, chairman of The 2016 Committee, who asked supporters to donate a symbolic $20.16. “It is a fact that sharia law is totally inconsistent with the United States Constitution.

“The Constitution guarantees equal rights for all Americans, but sharia law does not give equal rights to women or non-Muslims.”