When retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, the current GOP 2016 front-runner, campaigns, he routinely pitches “common sense solutions from We the People.” But it seems the candidate who celebrates a cheerful and straightforward populism has a fair bit of disdain for many of his fellow citizens, for at a videotaped event last year, while discussing the American people, he declared, “Many of them are stupid.”
Carson made this observation while speaking at the Richard Nixon library on October 19, 2014, as part of a book tour. After a fifteen-minute talk—prior to a book-signing—Carson was asked if he might run for president as an independent. He vowed not to do so, noting this would fracture the Republican vote. He then pivoted to another topic: unnamed political foes—presumably liberals, progressives, secularists, Marxists, or whatever—penetrating key elements of American society to gain control of the nation:
They can twist and turn things as much as they want. But what they don’t understand—and they miscalculated. They were doing a great job in terms of fundamentally changing this nation. In terms of infiltrating the school systems. In terms of infiltrating the media. All of this—they’ve done a great job. Everything was perfect. Except they underestimated the intelligence of the American people. The people are not as stupid as they think they are. Many of them are stupid. Okay. But I’m talking about overall.
The crowd laughed when Carson made that crack about dumb Americans, and Carson let out a loud guffaw.
In answering the same question, Carson also noted that he could escape the corruptions of conventional politics by deftly using social media, and, with no apparent sense of hyperbole, he suggested that Fox News was preventing America from becoming a totalitarian state:
Even if all the media tries to shut you down—which they have tried very much to do with me. But they can’t because the good Lord has provided me with mechanisms like my syndicated column and like Fox News. We’d be Cuba if there were no Fox News.
This was another applause line for the crowd of Carson fans, who had greeted Carson’s arrival with shouts of “run, Ben, run.” According to the financial disclosure form Carson filed in June that covered the preceding 12 months, he made $492,115 as a Fox News commentator and $137,148 as a columnist for the Washington Times.
Carson’s remarks about stupid Americans and the insidious plotting of unidentified elements to sneakily seize key American institutions were in sync with previous statements from this political novice who recently vaulted to the front of the Republican pack. Carson has long noted that he’s a fan of W. Cleon Skousen, who in 1958 wrote a book called The Naked Communist, a dark and paranoid screed that maintained that commies had “penetrated every echelon of American society”—from PTAs, art salons, media entities, social program offices, and entertainment companies to the “highest offices of the United States Government.” Skousen believed that the civil rights movement, acceptance of homosexuality, the rise of abstract art and modernism, and the advent of Medicare and Social Security were all part of a clandestine scheme mounted by communists and others to destroy the United States. Twelve years later, Skousen expanded his conspiracy theorizing to claim that a global cabal of bankers controlled the world from behind the scenes.
Carson has repeatedly—including last year on Fox News—cited Skousen, who died in 2006, as the key to understanding what has happened in the United States over the past half-century. The most recent edition of Skousen’s book trumpets Carson’s endorsement on the front cover: “The Naked Communist lays out the whole progressive plan. It is unbelievable how fast it has been achieved.” In 2007, the conservative National Review called Skousen an “all-around nutjob.”
Asked if Carson thinks that many Americans are stupid, a Carson spokesman said, “Sounds like he forgot to insert his usual ‘in Washington.'”
Carson does seemingly believe that for decades the American public has been slyly manipulated by an enemy from within. And he often decries political elites for adopting a condescending approach toward the citizenry and imposing their own views and positions upon the rest of the nation. On the campaign trail, he dismisses political experience as a qualification for office and contends that a candidate who demonstrates faith, honesty, and character can effectively govern by relying upon the wisdom of the American people. Yet at the Nixon library, Carson indicated he holds a significant number of voters in low regard. Presumably, they don’t count in his We the People.
Here’s Carson’s full talk at the Nixon library.