BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Dr. Ben Carson, the U.S. Housing & Urban Development Secretary, was in Baltimore Wednesday to talk about opportunity zones and federal programs that might help Baltimore revitalize its poorest communities. This comes days after President Donald Trump tweeted that the city was a “rat and rodent-infested mess.”
Carson, who worked as a surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital for 36 years, said he has a special place in his heart for Baltimore and for the people of Baltimore. But when he was holding a press conference Wednesday morning, a church kicked him off of their property.
“When we’re talking about helping people,” he said. “This is the level we have sunken to in society.”
“There are a lot of excellent and wonderful people here,” Carson added, “and there are a lot of good places in Baltimore as well. But there are problems and we can’t sweep them under the rug.”
Carson compared the city to a patient with cancer. He said you can dress a cancer patient up, but that “cancer is going to have a devastating effect.”
“You’re going to have to address that issue if you’re ever going to solve it,” he added.
Carson said HUD has a large history in Baltimore, providing grants that helped redevelop areas, including the Inner Harbor.
“The federal government has invested a lot of money into Baltimore and will continue to do so,” he said. “But you can see from looking around, there are problems here in Baltimore.”
As a pediatric neurosurgeon, Carson said he spent his time in Baltimore trying to give children a second chance at life.
He said after spending “hours and hours” operating on children, “most of the time” being successful, days later he’d find himself in a dilemma about sending some of those kids back into the neighborhoods that he knew that they came from like East Baltimore or West Baltimore.
“Where there were rats, roaches, mice, and ticks,” Carson said, “where there was just an unabated lead problem that was having devastating effects on the mental development of young people.” He also said there was mold.
“Somehow — I guess that’s how God works — I ended up as the Secretary of HUD,” Carson said. “And we can actually deal with these issues.”
Carson said that in order to solve the issues “we have to be willing to talk about them” and work together. But that there’s so much animosity.
It’s important to stop this madness, he said, adding our threats are not as bad as China, Russia or North Korea.
“I’ve talked to the President over a couple of days about what we can do for Baltimore,” Carson said. “He’s very willing to work with people here in Baltimore, including with Elijah Cummings, but the President’s emphasis is on the people.”
Carson said that’s his emphasis too. He said he spoke to Trump during the 2016 election about the “poor people of Baltimore and what are we going to do for them.”
Carson ran against Trump in the Republican primary, but eventually dropped out of the race and endorsed Trump.
The results of that conversation can already be seen in the 149 opportunity zones in the state of Maryland, Carson said. Opportunity zones, he said won’t fail because investors want to see a return on their investments.
“When you see what’s happening nationwide — manufacturing is back, wages are up, unemployment is down — for the first time in recorded history there are more jobs than people looking for jobs,” Carson said. “You know prison reform. I’ve been very enthusiastic about prison reform.”
Carson said people are the most important resource and said Trump’s administration recognizes that.
Carson added that he doesn’t want to see people climbing the economic ladder to get the “rug pulled out” from under them.
“The people who are doing it want to demonize these efforts and act like they’ve been doing wonderful things,” Carson said. “Let’s be smart enough to use our brains and figure out how to solve these problems.”
When asked if Rep. Cummings’ was at fault for the trash, poverty, rodents and other issues in Baltimore, Carson said he’s not one to point fingers.
Cummings was invited to the press conference with Carson, however, he declined. Carson said he thought Cummings couldn’t change a prior engagement last minute.
A reporter also asked Carson if Trump would visit Baltimore.
“I would love for him to come — first of all to tour — have an opportunity to see things that work and don’t work. Like I said before Baltimore has a lot of things to be proud of. There’s been a lot of improvement in Baltimore over the last 20, 30 and 40 years,’ he said.
“But there’s also a lot of plight and a lot of things going on that are nor serving the people,” Carson added.
Carson said he wants Trump to “express his heart” to the people of Baltimore like it’s been expressed to him, but that Trump feels if he were to visit, “he’d be treated so hostile.”
“That he says, well, maybe I don’t even want to go there,” Carson said of Trump.
Carson claimed that $16 billion has been invested in Baltimore since the Trump administration has been in office.
When asked if he thought the money was stolen, he said he needs to look at how the money was allocated.
Carson was also asked if Trump’s comments were racist, but he walked away from the microphone.