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Baltimore reacts to Dr. Ben Carson’s turn as right-wing hero

April 4, 2013

Dr. Ben Carson stepped onto the national stage in February with his pointed, right-leaning speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, defending the flat tax and slamming Obamacare in front of President Obama, and has stayed there ever since. In a series of subsequent public appearances, on Fox News, at the CPAC conference, and on Mark Levin’s conservative talk show, the revered local brain surgeon has lingered in the spotlight with a series of controversial pronouncements, including lumping homosexuality in with pedophilia and bestiality and suggesting that white liberals “are the most racist people there are.”

These comments are not inconsistent for the Yale-educated Hopkins surgeon, who is a devout Seventh Day Adventist and has previously stated that he doesn’t “believe” in evolution.

Baltimoreans have been weighing in on Dr. Carson recent embrace by the right-wing establishment. In this week’s Baltimore City Power Rankings City Paper pointed out his hypocrisy in claiming, by way of opposing gay marriage, that “no group of individuals… gets to change traditional definitions,” which seems to negate the entire civil rights and women’s rights movements, among others, and would relegate Dr. Carson to the once “traditional definition” of himself as three-fifths of a man.

In his Sunday Sun column, Dan Rodricks recalled his own interview with Carson five years ago, in which the doctor defended corporal punishment for 2-year-olds and tax breaks for the wealthy based on his religious beliefs: “His endorsement of spanking was so unexpected and strange that another physician, who happened to hear the broadcast on WYPR, called later to say he was appalled by the prominent pediatric neurosurgeon’s statements,” Rodricks wrote.

On the other hand, Baltimore magazine publisher Steve Geppi (who CP once declared “Best Short-Fingered Vulgarian”), in the Publisher’s Note of the April issue, heaps praise on Carson for criticizing Obamacare and “the cancer of political correctness,” writing “I’m proud that he stepped up and said what he really thought, because he believes it’s that bad out there now.”

But the best commentary on Dr. Carson’s headlong dive into right-wing politics is by West Baltimore native and Atlantic senior editor  Ta-Nehisi Coates (profiled by CP in 2008), who, in yesterday’s New York Times, described Carson as the latest “Conservative Black Hope” and explains conservatives’ sudden interest in his already long-known conservative beliefs:

Not all black conservatives see it as their job to tell white racists that they embody the dreams of Martin Luther King Jr. It is certainly possible to oppose Obamacare in good conscience. No one knows this more than Ben Carson. In the late 1980s and early ’90s, he may have been the most celebrated figure in the black communities of Baltimore. Carson responded to that adulation by regularly giving his time to talk to young people, who needed to know that there was so much more beyond the streets.

I was one of those young people. I don’t doubt that Carson was a conservative even then. I knew plenty of black people who loved their community and hated welfare. But white conservatives were never interested in them, and they were never as interested in Ben Carson as they are right now. When the presidency was an unbroken string of white men, there were no calls for him to run for the White House. And then he put on the mask.