Ben Carson didn’t live in public housing as a boy, for the record, but the myth has persisted and surfaced again after President-elect Donald Trump nominated him as secretary of housing and urban development on Monday.
Critics immediately began taking jabs at the retired neurosurgeon, questioning his abilities, according to USA Today.
House minority leader Nancy Pelosi called Carson “unqualified.”
When Carson's defenders shot back on the upside of having someone like him leading HUD, some of them argued that one of Carson’s biggest strengths would be his upbringing in public housing.
For example, when Pelosi called Carson “unqualified” her criticism was quickly tweeted down by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, but his post repeated the public housing myth.
Armstrong Williams, a conservative talk show host and longtime confidant to Carson, clarified things with his own Twitter post.
Williams said the family once lived in a home for which there was a government subsidy.
Carson seemed hesitant when his name was previously floated for HUD, and Williams was quoted in media reports as saying, “Dr. Carson feels he has no government experience.”
“He’s never run a federal agency. The last thing he’d want to do was take a position that could cripple the presidency,” Williams told NPR in defending Carson's initial hesitancy.
“Dr. Carson was always clear that his preference was to remain in private industry,” but “if Mr. Trump insisted that he wanted him in his Cabinet, he would certainly give it serious consideration.”
“My only comment was there are many people who spend their lives running government agencies and bureaucracies and could absolutely — they’re out there — that could be considered,” Williams added. “But obviously Mr. Trump felt Mister — Dr. Carson — brought something. Because there’s just so many things that the media and people don’t understand about Dr. Carson.”
Public housing or not, Carson's rags-to-riches story can provide hope to millions of Americans.
As Fox News noted, President Barack Obama spoke of giving “hope” to people of color as the first black president, and now Carson is in a position to inspire many impoverished communities across the country as “a good man, a gentleman, and a great human being” that many people strongly believe in.
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