“We should be using every tool available to us to fight the pandemic,” says Dr. Ben Carson, meaning not just vaccines and monoclonal antibodies, but also therapeutics like hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin. “Let’s look at all of these things. … And let’s throw the politics out.”
In this exclusive interview with Dr. Ben Carson, the former U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development, he offers his insights into our current political moment, from vaccine mandates for children to the rise of critical race theory.
And he shares his own incredible story. As a child, Carson lived in a cockroach- and rat-infested tenement and scored grades at the bottom of his class. At age 33, he had become chief of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
“The American Dream is alive and well. But you’re not entitled to it. You have to work for it.”
Carson is the founder of the American Cornerstone Institute, a nonprofit organization promoting conservative solutions based on the principles of “faith, liberty, community, and life.”
Jan Jekielek: Dr. Ben Carson, it’s such a pleasure to have you back on American Thought Leaders.
Dr. Ben Carson: Thank you. It’s always wonderful to be with you.
Mr. Jekielek: When you were Housing Secretary, we didn’t really get to sit down [for long] like we’re doing today. One of my hopes was that I get to talk to you a little bit about where you came from. It’s such a remarkable story. My parents are immigrants from Poland, and your story happened, of course, in America. But it’s what the American Dream is also to immigrants. It just strikes me that way.
Dr. Carson: Oh, absolutely, no question about it. There are those who don’t particularly like my story, because it doesn’t really cater to the ideal of victimhood, but my mother was just such an emphasizer of personal responsibility. My parents got divorced early on. We had to move from the home that I really loved. It was one of those 700 square foot GI homes, but it was our 700 square feet. Had a little yard, and I just thought it was heaven on earth, but we had to leave there.
Mr. Jekielek: Your mother was one of 24 kids. I have relatives that are one of 13, but 24.
Dr. Carson: Well, remember in the rural south many decades ago, very large families were not nearly as rare as they are today. But even then, that was a very large brood. Now, some of them were stillborn, but she was mired in poverty and had difficulties with school. Didn’t quite finish the third grade, but she was endowed with wisdom. She got married, they moved to Detroit.
He was much older than she was, more than twice as old. He worked in a factory, but she was very thrifty. She saved every extra penny and put it into land. At one point, they owned quite a lot of property. If my father hadn’t gotten into gambling, drugs and women. Women are okay, but you only need one. I think I would’ve probably been born in very different circumstances, but she discovered that he was a bigamist, had another family, and we had to find a place to live, unfortunately.
One of her older sisters in Boston took us in. It was a tenement, a typical tenement that you see on TV with rats, roaches, and gangs, sirens and murders, and broken glass all over the place—but it was a roof over our head. That couple of years gave my mother enough time to get on her feet and we moved back to Detroit. We couldn’t afford the house that I thought was our dream home, but at least we were someplace.
I was just this horrendous student. I didn’t think I was smart. None of my classmates or teachers thought I was smart. But, my mother thought I was smart and she was always encouraging me. She really believed in education because she worked as a domestic, and these were beautiful homes that she cleaned, and she was always saying, “What is it that makes these people so successful?” She concluded that it was they read a lot.
They didn’t watch a lot of TV but they read a lot. She came home and imposed that on me and my brother. We were not happy at all, but you had to do what your parents told you in those days. Today, we’d probably … well, we would have called Social Services and they would have carried her away in handcuffs, but in those days …
Mr. Jekielek: For saying, “Hey, you’re going to read,” What was it? It was two books a week, I think.
Dr. Carson: Two books a week from the public library and submit to her written book reports, which we didn’t know she couldn’t read because she was clever. She would put little highlights and marks all over the place.
But, the interesting thing was even though I didn’t like it very much at first; after a while, I got to the point where I couldn’t wait to get home to get into my books because it opened up a whole new world. We lived with rats, roaches and poverty, but as soon as I opened the covers of those books, I was transformed to another place.
Mr. Jekielek: How old are you when this happens?
Dr. Carson: It started in the fifth grade.
Mr. Jekielek: Okay.
Dr. Carson: I started reading about scientists, surgeons, explorers and entrepreneurs. I very rapidly came to an understanding, as my brother did, that you were the person who was going to decide where you are going to go. Nobody else got to decide that. Even though there were a lot of people around us who were constantly telling us that the world was unfair, that you wouldn’t be able to succeed. Why do you have these lofty dreams? But, we forgot about all that.
Mr. Jekielek: So, wait. You’re saying that all along there is this narrative being pushed at you from friends and relatives?
Dr. Carson: Oh, absolutely. Some people think that that’s a new thing. It’s much more intense now. Because there were more people when I was growing up who would say, “You know what? All that’s going on but you can make it. If you really work hard and you really study hard, you can make anything happen that you want to.” You heard that a lot more then, than you hear that today.
Mr. Jekielek: Okay. But, the other voices were still there.
Dr. Carson: The other voices were powerful. But, my mother’s voice was powerful, too. Her favorite poem was called “Yourself to Blame.” You’re the captain of your ship. If things go awry, don’t blame others. You have yourself to blame. We always heard that poem when we came up with an excuse, so we stopped coming up with excuses.
Within the space of a year and a half, I went from the bottom of the class to the top of the class, much to the consternation of all the students who used to call me dummy who were now coming to me for the answers. But, it was an incredible transformation that occurred at that point. It was interesting—some of the adventures, some of the teachers, some of the reactions to the teachers because we lived just on the white side of the railroad tracks, so I had to go to white schools.
When I was doing poorly, they said, “Oh, of course, he’s a black kid. Of course he’s going to do poorly.” It was no big deal. But when I rose to the top of the class, “What is this that is going on here?” I particularly remember when I was in the eighth grade and we would have a special award for the highest achieving student, and I was pretty sure I was going to get the award.
I carried the report card around to each teacher and they would put your mark on it. I had all A’s. Got to the last class which was band. I was a very good student in band so I knew I was going to get an A in there. And, the band teacher gave me a C to ruin my report card and ruin my chances of winning the award. But, to his chagrin, it turned out that band didn’t count so I got the award anyway.
Mr. Jekielek: So this was just straight up racism, basically?
Dr. Carson: Well, straight up ignorance because I think in those days, people had ideas and they weren’t particularly ever challenged. So, it was a natural thing for people to think that way. I talk about that in my new book that will be coming out in a few months called “Created Equal.” I don’t absolutely harbor grudges against that person or other people who had funny ideas because that’s what they saw, that’s what they heard, that’s what was inculcated into them.
I think we have a duty to try to educate people. The amount of racism in America has dramatically changed from the time that I was a youngster. I remember when a black person came on TV, when I was a youngster, who wasn’t in a servile role, it was a big deal. Everybody, “Hey, hey, come and see this. This is incredible.”
Now, you have black admirals and generals and CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and presidents of universities, including Ivy leagues. We’ve had a United States president who was black, elected twice, a vice president. I’m not saying that we have reached nirvana, but it is markedly different than it used to be. And anybody who won’t admit that is just playing ostrich and sticking their head in the sand.
Mr. Jekielek: I want to talk a lot more about that, but I’m just thinking about this time, where in a year and a half, you actually went from … This is what I’m hearing, right? You’re at the bottom of the class, your mom forces you to read books and write reports on them. And in a year and a half, you shift to the top of the class. Do you remember something specific like an aha moment?
Dr. Carson: I do. It was because I read all the animal books. I loved animals. Then, I read all the plant books, and then I started reading about rocks and minerals because we lived near the railroad tracks. And what is there along the railroad tracks? Rocks. So, I would collect them in boxes, come home, read about them.
Pretty soon, I could name any rock, tell you how it was formed, where it came from. Still, in the fifth grade, still the dummy and one day the science teacher walked in and he held up this big, black shiny rock and he says, “Can anybody tell me what this is?” Well, I never raised my hand. But, no one raised their hand. I actually knew what it was, so I raised my hand and he was shocked.
He said, “Benjamin?” I said, “Mr. Jake, that’s obsidian.” And there was silence because nobody knew whether it was right or wrong. They didn’t know whether they should be impressed or should be laughing. Finally, after he got over his shock, he said, “That’s right.”
I said, “Obsidian is formed after a volcanic eruption and the lava flows down and hits the waters, the super cooling process, the elements coalesce, the air is forced out and the surface glazes.” They were all staring at me. They said, “What in the world is going on here?”
But, I was the most amazed person because it dawned on me that the reason I knew the answer and nobody else did is because I was reading the books. I said, “Aren’t you tired of being called a dummy?” I was. I didn’t ever let anybody know I didn’t like it, but I really didn’t like it.
I said, “What if you start reading about all your subjects?” From that point on, you never saw me without a book. Waiting for the bus, reading a book. On the bus, reading a book. Sometimes missing my stop because I was reading a book. And, it really changed my perspective on the world.
Mr. Jekielek: That’s amazing, frankly. How powerful. I’ve had some amazing experiences reading as well.
Dr. Carson: You think about the fact that all of a sudden I wasn’t the first one to sit down in a spelling bee. Why? Because I was looking at words all the time. I knew how to spell. And, you learn grammar and syntax and you learn how to express yourself. It has many wonderful side effects.
Mr. Jekielek: I want to say right now that there just seems to be a lot less of an emphasis on exactly these things, right?
Dr. Carson: That’s the critical problem that we’re having in our schools right now. In Baltimore city, the graduation rate, obviously, is very low but the number of students who are working at grade level is almost zero. In so many of our large cities, that seems to be the case. And the politicians, I don’t know what’s wrong with them.
I remember in Baltimore during The No Child Left Behind series, some of the schools that were failing badly, they said, “We’re going to send these kids to other schools.” The politicians physically gathered around the school saying, “No, these are our schools. These are our failing students. We want to let them fail.”
They didn’t say that, but obviously that was the message. Nothing has improved. We really need school choice in a big way, and we need to make it possible for the money to follow the children so that they can get a good education because it doesn’t matter what background you come from in this country. If you get a good education, you write your own ticket.
Mr. Jekielek: We’re at this place right now where you hear about, for example, zero students. I know of cases exactly in school systems where 0 percent of the students are actually functioning at grade level. This general phenomenon is not uncommon. Is this system just completely broken?
Dr. Carson: I don’t think we’re putting the correct emphasis on education like we did 100 years ago, 200 years ago. Alexis de Tocqueville was very impressed with our education system when he came to study America, and did his big two volume set on democracy in America. All you have to do is go back and look at some of those exit exams. You had to really know something to graduate from the sixth grade back in those days.
Today, you’ve probably seen some of those Man on the Street interviews where they go and say, “Who were the opponents in the Civil War,” and they’re like, “Was it England?” I mean, people don’t know a lot of basic stuff.
It’s not just embarrassing, it’s frightening because we only have 330 million people. That sounds like a lot of people but it’s a quarter of what China has, a quarter of what India has. In the future, we have to compete with them, which means we need to develop all of our people. We can have a large group of people who know nothing and are easily manipulated.
Mr. Jekielek: You mentioned something quite important. You’re saying that never mind civics, but history, some people just don’t know some of the most basic history. Or, we can talk about this a bit too, interpretations of history that are highly opinionated, let’s say.
Dr. Carson: Well, instead of critical race theory, we ought to be teaching critical math theory, critical English and history and civics, and the things that people really need to know in order to be useful contributing citizens of our nation.
Mr. Jekielek: And what about history?
Dr. Carson: History is so important because your history is what gives you your identity, and your identity is what gives you your beliefs. So by distorting history, we are having a very disruptive effect on the identity of our young people and it makes them very vulnerable. And, I think that’s why it’s so easy for them to … A third, I think, of our young people now think socialism is okay.
They don’t really know what it is. They think it’s probably familiarly social media. They don’t know what it is. It would be wonderful if they could go and live in frankly socialist countries for a year or so. I think it would open their eyes tremendously in terms of the tremendous opportunities that we have here and why we need to make sure that we maintain freedom in this country.
This country is about liberty. It’s one of the key things, obviously, that we emphasize at the American Cornerstone Institute; faith, liberty, community, and life. And, it was because people wanted to be able to live freely without the government’s foot on their neck that they came here in the first place, without the government mandating that you must do this and you must do this and you can go here and you can’t go there. That’s not America, and we cannot be fooled into thinking that’s America on the basis of some health issue. We can’t let any kind of issue destroy our freedoms.
Mr. Jekielek: That’s frankly a very interesting piece of history that isn’t necessarily obvious or probably even known by many people. You think of the definition of America. It’s the people coming who were persecuted in their homelands originally, and some folks, they’re simply not aware.
Dr. Carson: They just wanted to be able to worship as they wanted to worship and to live the way they wanted to live, as long as it wasn’t infringing upon somebody else’s rights. That was the promise of America. It’s the reason that it’s still the destination for so many people. Think about it. If we were a systemically horrible racist country, why would people be forming caravans trying to get in here? And then, once they got in here, wouldn’t they flee? No, that’s obviously not true.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, I was reading, for example, that the most affluent Hispanics in the world are in America. That’s an interesting, again, odd statistic. That’s correct, right?
Dr. Carson: That’s correct, and also when you look at the demographic group that’s starting the most businesses. I think they’re coming here and they’re recognizing, “Wow. Look at these opportunities that exist here that did not exist where we were coming from.” And, they take advantage of it.
Mr. Jekielek: So, the Cornerstone Institute. Of course, you founded it not too long ago. You mentioned some of the core ideas behind it, but a big focus that you’ve had has been tackling this whole idea of critical race theory in schools, and just the question of race, right?
Dr. Carson: Right, it’s such an important issue because the United States of America plays a very important role in the world. If we lose our status and we lose our standing, the world will deteriorate very rapidly. Once again, when we are strong, there tends to be much peace in the world. When we are weak, the death spots begin to reappear. And, how do you weaken America, a place that is so strong historically? You divide the people.
Jesus said it first, Abraham Lincoln repeated it. A house divided against itself cannot stand. Critical race theory, the 1619 Project which presents white people as oppressors and the root cause of problems for everybody else, and that everybody else is a victim—I’m quite at a loss to explain how that improves our country.
How does that make a people better? It doesn’t. It creates division and animosity and resentment. Not to mention the fact that it’s based on a series of untruths. People are people, and what makes a person who they are? Their skin color? Really? Their hair texture? I don’t think so.
As a neurosurgeon, I can tell you that when I open somebody’s skull and start working on the brain, that is what makes them who they are. The other things are just peripheral decorations, and they have nothing to do with who you are as a person.
That’s what we need to begin to really, truly understand. You look at a human brain versus an animal brain, say a dog, and what’s the difference? Well, the surface topography is quite similar, but the dog’s midbrain is much more developed than the human midbrain, and that allows you to react.
Dog’s react much faster than we do. Most animals react much faster than we do, but we have these very well-developed frontal lobes. Now, what are those for? Rational thought processing, extracting information from the past and the present. Integrating it, understanding it, projecting it into the future, controlling what’s going on. That’s what we do as human beings rather than acting like animals.
Critical race theory tells you, “No, no, no. Act like an animal. Just look at the surface of that person, look at their external characteristics and make a judgment as to who they are.” Why should we be going backward? We need to be moving forward. We need to use the intellect that God has given us to move forward, not to act like animals.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, so there’s this assumption that, based on skin color, that all the people with this particular skin color will basically be the same.
Dr. Carson: That’s exactly right. And, it’s just so ridiculous. To assume, for instance, that white people are oppressors and it started with slavery. And that everything they do is to maintain their possession is false on the surface because most of the white people in the south did not own slaves. They couldn’t afford slaves, so to say because of their ancestry of slave holding, they’re evil is just not correct.
Also, most people don’t know this, there were black slave holders also. In 1670, the Commonwealth of Virginia actually declared that blacks and Indians could not own Christian slaves, which was their euphemism for white slaves. There’s a lot of very interesting history if you go back and delve through it. The point being that people are people and when they find an advantage, they take advantage of it.
You also must remember, where did the slaves come from? The African slaves usually came from tribal fighting, and one tribe would prevail over another and they would either kill or take the enemies as their slaves, and then all of a sudden, there were these Portuguese people saying, “Can we buy some of those slaves?” They said, “Hm, that’s a good way to get some cash.” That’s really a big part of how things got started, and it just multiplied from there.
Mr. Jekielek: Nobody disputes the horror of slavery in America. Do you feel like that chapter has been closed in the country?
Dr. Carson: Remember, slavery has been a part of society since we have written records. And I’ll tell you something that’s pretty shocking. There are more slaves in the world today than there have ever been. You look at sex trafficking, and even in the United States, we are the biggest subscribers to human trafficking. So we don’t have to go back 200 years. We can look at what’s going on right now.
We really should be focusing some attention on what is going on right under our noses, and the incredible lives that these sex slaves live. It’s awful. There’s a movie coming out soon called “The Sound of Freedom” that really details the child’s sex trafficking that goes on and the kind of lives that they have to live. It’s so awful that sometimes when they’re rescued, they actually go back to it because they don’t know any other life. They don’t feel any other security.
So we have a job to do. But there was nothing unique about the United States and having slavery. What was unique is that we had so many people who were vehemently opposed to it, that we were willing to fight a civil war, lose a huge number of people to try to stop it.
Some people say, “Well, that Civil War, that wasn’t about slavery. That was about maintaining the union.” Well, remember the reason that the south wanted to succeed is so that they could maintain slavery. So obviously that was the root cause. As I always say, “Elementary, my dear Watson.”
Mr. Jekielek: I think you’ve said this in the past that this whole critical race theory, this idea in the 1619 Project, that origins of America are in slavery. That it’s actually more of a tool to divide than an attempt to paint an authentic history.
Dr. Carson: That’s correct. And, if you really want to fundamentally change a country and change a society, you first must get people to feel that it needs to be changed. That it is so inherently evil the way that it is, that it needs to be changed. This is all part of that plan to try to make us appear evil so that people will want to change our system into something else. The exact opposite is the case.
This is the place that has provided more opportunity for more people, not only in this country, but around the world. This is the first superpower of the world that has not gone around and trampled and tried to conquer everybody else. It is an amazing place. I think a large part of that has to do with our faith and the fact that we did have a moral basis, our Judeo-Christian foundation, and the development of our Constitution, our Bill of Rights.
As we’ve moved away from that, and if you go back and you look at the writings of Lenin and Stalin and some of the other Russians, they talk about the strength of America—our family structure and our moral foundation and how that was going to make it extremely difficult to ever conquer, to defeat the United States of America. The way that it would be done is to corrupt them morally and to destroy their family structure. It seems like those are the things that are going on right now.
We have to be smart enough to realize that we have something that’s particularly wonderful here. This is like the older brother and the younger brother. The younger brother has this delicious dessert that the older brother wants, but he can’t have it. So he says to the younger brother, “Maggots smothered in rats, and all kinds of horrible things,” and the little brother says, “Ew, I don’t want this,” and he runs out. And, the big brother eats it.
We have a wonderful system. Other people want it. We can not be so foolish as to allow someone to make us think that it is rotten to the core and that we need to change it. Do we need to learn from our mistakes? Absolutely. Have we been perfect? Absolutely not. Has any society been perfect? Absolutely not because they’re inhabited by people and people are imperfect.
Mr. Jekielek: I’m just going to think back to something you said earlier. I think folks might take issue with this statement, saying that America hasn’t gone around trying to push its weight around. I’ve been thinking about places like, for example, the Afghan nation building in Afghanistan, which of course, didn’t end well. There’re all sorts of examples in South America that people point to. There’s been some pretty serious deviations from what you said.
Dr. Carson: Well, I haven’t said that we haven’t used our weight inappropriately from time to time. What I did say is we haven’t gone around trying to conquer everybody and pilfer and take all their stuff.
Mr. Jekielek: Okay. You mentioned earlier that … a house divided against itself isn’t going to work. We’re very much in that place, aren’t we, here in America right now?
Dr. Carson: Unfortunately, we’re very much there right now. I hate to say this to you because you’re part of the media, but they have fomented the hatred, and I don’t know why they do it. I don’t know why they push the scenarios that would make socialism and communism more acceptable. Have they not read history that tells you that the first thing that communism governments do is completely control the media? Do they not know that?
So, I think they’re being a little shortsighted. I always encourage journalists, particularly young people, to recognize that the only business protected by our Constitution, the only one, is the media, the press. Why? Because they were supposed to disseminate unbiased information to the people.
That’s the only way that the people can know the information which will allow them to have an opinion, to have a will, because the country was supposed to be run on the will of the people. That was what distinguished us from other nations that were government-centric. We were supposed to be people-centric.
It was a great experiment and many people thought it would never work, and that somehow we would eventually wind up being government-centric. But that’s why our founders spent so much time on our Constitution—to provide the people with the tools that they needed to keep the government from expanding and controlling their lives.
Mr. Jekielek: I think you could say the press has shifted in its vision from truth seeking, which I think has always been the idea. I’m talking about the ideal of journalism, not propaganda masquerading as journalism—to something reinforcing narratives that are “the truth that is known to be,” the correct view.
Dr. Carson: The majority of people no longer trust the press.
Mr. Jekielek: How do you function in a society that is in that situation?
Dr. Carson: Well, it becomes very difficult. I think that’s one of the reasons we’re having so much difficulty right now. But, that doesn’t mean we have to give up. We have to recognize what the source of the problem is and we need to discuss it. We need to understand that we, the American people, are not each other’s enemies. The real enemies are those who are trying to make us think that we hate each other.
That person who lived across the street from you peacefully for the last 20 years is not suddenly your enemy because they have a different yard sign than you do. We have to stop buying into this stuff.
Mr. Jekielek: I mentioned earlier that I feel like your story, which I think we only got to the beginning of it—I want to touch on it a little more—was a personification of this American Dream that many got, actually. What’s the status of the American Dream today in your mind?
Dr. Carson: Well, I think there are still those who push very hard. Here’s something that’s very interesting. There’s a wealth gap that exists in our country. I think everybody recognizes it’s pretty substantial between blacks and whites. Except, if you look at Ghanaians and Nigerians that come to this country, there’s no wealth gap.
Now, if you know families from those places, what you know is that there’s a tremendous emphasis on family and education, and they’ve eliminated the wealth gap. So, I wonder if, perhaps, there is something that we should glean from that and recognize that the American Dream is alive and well, but you’re not entitled to it. You have to work for it. And, that was what people wanted.
They wanted to come. They said, “I don’t care that I have to work hard as long as I get the benefit from that hard work and somebody else doesn’t come along and say, ‘Well, I’m taking your stuff because you don’t really deserve it.'”
Mr. Jekielek: Let me ask you, what is your comment on the election in Virginia?
Dr. Carson: I was very pleased to see people willing to cross the political barriers and vote on what was an important issue. And that is who has the right to say how your child should be educated. Do your children belong to you or do they belong to the state? I think that was an issue that Democrats, Republicans, Independents, all, could come together on. I think there are many issues that they could all come together on.
When you look at the economy right now, the tremendous inflation, more so than in the last 30 years, what’s causing it? Well, one of the big drivers is energy costs. That was a self-inflicted wound.
Stopping the Keystone Pipeline on day one, putting in place regulations for energy production, to shut down a lot of what was going on already. We had become energy independent, we’re a net exporter of energy. The costs were very low. We had the cleanest air and water since we’ve been measuring air and water cleanliness. And, we just chucked all of that.
Well, of course that’s going to drive the cost of energy up tremendously, and who’s going to suffer from that? Not the rich. It’s the people who most need our sympathy, our encouragement, [and] opportunities, who are being hurt by that the most. If we were intelligent people, we would say, “Let’s not throw away all the things that have given us energy independence and freedom, but let’s do work on green energy, on renewable energy.”
There’s no reason that we can’t pursue both of those things at the same time and substitute green energy as it becomes more practical. I think that’s the issue that we need in our country, not knee jerk because those people did that, we’re not going to do it. That’s third grade stuff; apologies to the third graders.
Mr. Jekielek: I want to go back to your story here. Of course, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic, or perhaps a pandemic shifting into an endemic phase of a virus. That’s what many people much smarter than I have been telling me. I want to talk a little bit about that. Let’s talk about your transition from becoming an A student and your mind opening up to becoming a neurosurgeon. There are many steps there, right? At what point did you really know that that’s where you needed to be?
Dr. Carson: I always wanted to be a doctor. That’s the only thing I ever wanted to be from the time I was eight years old. I wasn’t really putting two and two together that you had to be a good student to get into medical school until much later. But after the obsidian episode, I really began to have hope.
One of the things that I really hated as a youngster was poverty. Some people hate rats and roaches and snakes. I hate poverty. That is until I began to read about all of these successful people, and then I didn’t mind poverty anymore because I knew that it was only temporary.
I knew that I could change it. I knew that my destiny was in my hands. It wasn’t in the hands of society or somebody who was a racist who tried to get in the way. If I wanted to choose to let that be an obstacle, I could do so but I didn’t have to. That changed my whole perspective on life.
Were there difficulties along the way? Absolutely, but I didn’t stop and blame other people for those difficulties. I always looked inside, and I said, “Is there something that you could be doing better? Is there something that would help this difficulty go away?”
Generally speaking, the answer was yes, there was. And when you rectified that, the problem went away. I could have not rectified it and just pointed to somebody else and said, “They’re in my way. They’re to blame,” but I wouldn’t be talking to you today if that had been the case.
Mr. Jekielek: Let’s talk about COVID-19. You’re not a fan of big government. You’re not a fan of government structures telling the populace what to do, how to behave, or perhaps even manipulating them into behaving in certain ways. I don’t think you’re a fan of any of these things.
Dr. Carson: No, I’m definitely not and therefore, I have some difficulty with the way that COVID is being utilized to manipulate and to frighten people. We should be using every tool available to us to fight the pandemic. There’s no question about that. But that means therapeutics, which have been poo-pooed. And, I understand why.
Because in order to get an EUA, an Emergency Use Authorization to pursue the vaccines, you can’t have anything that’s effective as an alternative. So, that’s a defect in our system. We need to get rid of that and we should be able to pursue all the different avenues and let them take us where they possibly can. I think a lot of people died unnecessarily because we had that attitude.
You look at the infusion of antibodies, monoclonal antibodies. A tremendous advantage, which was not really utilized the way it should be early on. My life was saved because of it. I was severely ill with COVID. I was ready to move on to the next world, and it was really that therapy that turned things around for me. But there are many things that have been very effective that we have not pursued, including natural immunity.
The CDC so much as admitted a few weeks ago that they don’t have evidence that natural immunity is effective or is not effective, whether it’s easier or less easy to transmit the disease. Then they admitted that they don’t collect that information. Well, why wouldn’t you collect that information? Why wouldn’t you want to know that?
The only reason you wouldn’t do that is because you didn’t want to know the answer because it didn’t fit very neatly into what you’re trying to do, which is get everybody to be vaccinated. I think that’s one of the reasons that people don’t trust the information that’s coming out.
A lot of the people who probably should be vaccinated are not doing it because they see these inconsistencies, these things that make absolutely no sense. This demand that everybody get a vaccination, except if you’re coming across the southern border illegally and then it’s not all that important.
Mr. Jekielek: Or, you’re in Congress, for that matter.
Dr. Carson: Or, you’re in Congress, that’s right. So, our people are not stupid. They’re able to see these things and they’re able to process that information, and if we stop treating them like children and level with them, people will make the right decisions. We have tremendous healthcare in this country, great doctors and healthcare providers, and we have people who have different circumstances.
Some have natural immunity, some have other systemic diseases, a variety of different conditions so what their treatment should be and what preventative measures should be taken, they should do that with their physician, not some government bureaucrat who has a one-size-fits-all measuring stick.
Mr. Jekielek: Okay, so two things. The first one is it’s true that the CDC hasn’t been doing this work around natural immunity, gathering data around it, but I’m aware of a paper that Brownstone Institute just published somewhat recently looking at all the studies out there about natural immunity.
Not everybody isn’t studying natural immunity. There’s plenty of folks that are, and it’s pretty clear based on the entire body of evidence from what they found that it’s incredibly effective, as one might expect in every other situation that we’ve been aware of. So, this has been perplexing to me.
Dr. Carson: Well, it is perplexing and it makes absolutely no sense. It’s obviously being ignored because it goes against the “everybody has to be vaccinated” mantra. It’s one of the reasons that I think people are losing confidence very quickly in the CDC and the NIH and our governmental agencies. That’s a shame because that’s going to impact public health issues well beyond COVID and it’s a serious issue.
Mr. Jekielek: The other thing that occurred to me, and you touched on it just as you finished the previous answer. I’ve almost been conditioned, based on hearing the news about COVID and how we have to respond to COVID, that somehow there’s this medical body from on high—dictates to all medical practitioners what they all should do.
I know rationally that this is absolutely not how medicine works, that doctors are trained so that they can deal with a patient as best they know how. It’s never a one-size-fits-all cookie cutter answer. So, how is [it] that this has somehow changed in this pandemic?
Dr. Carson: Well, we’ve had a lot of pressure on doctors to conform. You have to subscribe to what you’re being told or you can be canceled. Doctors are like everybody else. Some of them are courageous and some of them are not. That’s why it’s important for the individuals to actually know the truth, and that’s why the press could play such an important role to get the real facts out there so that people know what to work with.
We have a situation where you have the government advocating that children be vaccinated, even though the risk for death for a child with COVID is 0.025 percent. Essentially, the same as it is for seasonal flu. You don’t see us doing all this every year for seasonal flu.
So, the risk of mortality for a healthy child is approaching zero and yet, we’re saying “do this without knowing what the long-term risks are.” We don’t know what they are. Why would you subject an innocent child to a lifetime of unknown risk? It just makes absolutely no sense.
I think a lot of people are seeing that. Even in our court system, three federal judges have said no mandates. You can’t do this, and you certainly can’t relate a person’s livelihood to it. And yet, the executive branch of our federal government says, “Let’s push on with it anyway.” What is that? That’s lawlessness.
So, how can they sit around and criticize the smash-and-grab people and everybody else who’s exhibiting lawlessness when at the highest levels of government, we’re exhibiting lawlessness?
Mr. Jekielek: People have argued that some people should be vaccinated to protect everybody else. And some people have argued that this is why children should be vaccinated, even given the realities that you described there. What do you think about that?
Dr. Carson: Well, I think it doesn’t make any sense because if the elderly people are already vaccinated, which well over 90 percent of them are, then what danger is it to them that somebody else would come around who wasn’t vaccinated? That argument doesn’t make any sense on its face.
Everybody gets vaccinated so you can be protected. But, you’re not really protected because even if you’re vaccinated, they’re still going to give it to you. They’re not listening to themselves. They’re just talking.
Somebody has proclaimed a certain agenda, and you have a bunch of people following it who are not thinking for themselves; intelligent people. They’re what Vladimir Lenin referred to as “useful idiots.”
Mr. Jekielek: A number of people that I’ve spoken with, public health experts, are deeply concerned about the cost to the whole profession, to the whole concept of public health. That this is essentially killing the discipline.
Dr. Carson: It really is. We need to have faith in our government. We need to have faith in our healthcare systems and by injecting politics into it, I think we have put ourselves behind the eight ball. It’s going to take a while, I think, to reestablish that trust. And, it can only be done by leaders who are not deeply indebted to political figures.
Most of the people who ascend to leadership positions in our country have done so by “you rub my back, I’ll rub your back” type of stuff. Rarely do we get somebody who has not become indebted to others, and I think that’s one of the reasons that we find ourselves in the difficult situations that we are in.
Mr. Jekielek: So with public health first, let’s talk about the way out, because I know you think a lot about these things. I know you have that incredible spirit of optimism that can overcome anything. There’s a lot of people feeling really despondent out there. Just on the public health side, which is such a fundamental, foundational aspect of public life, how do we get out of this?
Dr. Carson: Well, I think the way out is quite easy. We say, “Sorry, we’ve been having tunnel vision and that’s not who we are.” Let’s open this thing up to all the different mechanisms. Let’s look around the world at things that work. Let’s look at the fact that on the western coast of Africa, there’s almost no COVID and let’s ask ourselves why is that?
Then you see it’s because they take anti-malarials, particularly hydroxychloroquine. Let’s study that. Let’s see what’s going on there. Let’s listen to these physician groups who have had incredible success with ivermectin. Let’s look at the results with monoclonal antibodies. Let’s look at all of these things. Let’s put them all in our armamentarium so that we don’t have a one-size-fits-all system. And, let’s throw the politics out. We could solve this problem pretty quickly.
COVID is a virus. Viruses mutate. That’s what they do, and they will continue to mutate. Fortunately, most of the time with each mutation, they attenuate, they become a little weaker. Pretty soon, they’re everywhere. They become endemic. They become part of something that we just learn how to live with. We can admit that and deal with it, or we can take every little mutation and every little change and try to make it into a crisis so we can frighten people and control their lives more.
Mr. Jekielek: So, in a broader picture, we’re again talking about a house divided, can’t function. So what is the path out through here?
Dr. Carson: The only path is strong leadership, and we don’t have that. We need people who know how to … That was actually the thing that I think was most appealing about Joe Biden. It was said that he was going to bring people together. Of course, he’s driven them much further apart. But, that’s what we need right now. Somebody who can look at what’s good for everybody, and let’s work on the basis of that.
Knowing that we have a pluralistic society, knowing that not everybody is going to agree about everything, why not learn how to take everybody’s best interest in consideration? Why not learn how to look at what’s logical and what makes sense? And, why not encourage discussion of those things rather than everybody get in their respective corners and shooting hand grenades at each other?
But that requires real leadership, and I don’t care where that leadership comes from. I don’t care which party it comes from, but it is essential for the prosperity of this nation.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, Dr. Ben Carson, it’s such a pleasure to have you on again.
Dr. Carson: Well, thank you. It’s always good to be with you, and I appreciate the fact that your outlet actually tries to be logical.
Mr. Jekielek: Amazing distinction.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Subscribe to the American Thought Leaders newsletter so you never miss an episode.
Follow EpochTV on social media: