Despite losing out to Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination and the White House itself, Ben Carson never left the limelight. Following his confirmation as the president’s Department of Housing and Urban Development secretary, the retired neurosurgeon has earned ridicule for saying “slaves are immigrants” and found himself stuck inside an elevator while surrounded by reporters. And if that weren’t enough bad press for the administration’s champion for low-income Americans, Carson made additional questionable utterances while touring facilities in Ohio.
In an interview with the New York Times, Carson offered a rather curious definition of the word “compassion.” Instead of describing it as the “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it,” per Merriam-Webster, Carson considered compassion refusing to give others “a comfortable setting that would make somebody want to say: ‘I’ll just stay here. They will take care of me.'” In other words, the HUD secretary believes in providing for those in need (he said this while reflecting upon a homeless shelter visit) — so long as they don’t become dependent upon their caretakers’ kindness.
“We have some people who are mentally ill. We have some elderly and disabled people. We can’t expect in many cases those people to do a great deal to take care of themselves,” said Carson between stops on his so-called “listening tour,” which involved seeing HUD facilities while hearing personnel justify their budgets. (Many programs are on Trump’s chopping block.) He added, “There is another group of people who are able-bodied individuals, and I think we do those people a great disservice when we simply maintain them.”
While some people undoubtedly take advantage of HUD’s programs, the general thrust of Carson’s “compassion” is disheartening. What’s more, many of the elderly or disadvantaged residents he visited throughout the tour told the Times they felt “used.” 87-year-old Alzene Munnerlyn, living in senior housing, described her short meeting with Carson as “staged” and “so fast,’ adding: “There needs to be a forum where you can just sit and talk with him, and he could ask you how you feel and then you could express yourself.”
(Via New York Times)