Presidential Hopeful Ben Carson Stumps in Winston-Salem
Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson stopped in Winston-Salem Tuesday to speak to a packed house at Berean Baptist Church.
More than a thousand people showed up to hear the retired neurosurgeon-turned-candidate’s stump speech.
The hour-long appearance—occasionally punctuated with an “amen” from the audience—found Carson sharing personal stories and explaining his views on cutting government red tape, reducing the national debt and criticizing the political correctness he says pervades American culture.
While there were plenty of Carson supporters in attendance, people like Sadie Clement from Winston-Salem came to judge for themselves. Clement says she had heard a lot from the media on what he believed, but seeing him first-hand gave her food for thought.
“This was a great opportunity for me to hear from him, and get a better understanding of where he stood on the issues,” Clement said. “I really am walking away with a lot of insight into what he stands for, much better than I had before.”
During the speech, Carson challenged the audience to take a half hour a day to read and learn about the world for themselves, instead of just scanning headlines, a challenge Clement says she took to heart.
Speaking from a pulpit, Carson also talked about the importance of faith in his life, a popular message in the crowded church.
But to win the nomination, Carson will have to gain supporters beyond the church sanctuary. After the event, when asked what he’ll do to attract a broader swath of voters, Carson said he didn’t need to change.
“I happen to believe that the majority of people in this country are people of faith and people who embrace the values that made America into a great nation,” Carson said. “It’s just that I think most people are afraid to express it.”
But his rise among GOP candidates hasn’t been without controversy. In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Carson questioned whether a Muslim would be qualified to serve as president.
The comment sparked outrage from Democrats, and locally, caused members of the Ministers’ Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity to hold a Tuesday protest rally at a separate location while the candidate spoke.
Bishop Tim Fulton, president of the minister’s conference, says Carson’s comments were divisive.
“We’re disappointed in [Carson] for embracing religious bigotry,” Fulton said. “We say to you, Dr. Carson – a man who is educated – we’re disappointed in you in your insanity from the statements you’ve made. We’re disappointed in you embracing Islamic-phobia.”
Days after the Meet the Press interview, Carson said his comment was aimed at radical strains of Islam and the media spun the story to make him look bad.
Carson’s next campaign stop is a town hall meeting in Durham, NH.