On Monday, retired neurosurgeon and conservative pundit Ben Carson officially announced his bid for the presidency at an event in Detroit that featured a Gospel choir singing an Eminen song.
Carson’s announcement made him the fifth Republican to officially enter the race for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.
Unlike his competitors vying to be on the GOP ticket, Carson is new to the party. He has never held public office and did not officially registered as a Republican until after last November’s midterm elections.
Carson has become increasingly popular among the GOP’s conservative base. He first sparked national attention when he spoke critically of the Obama administration at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2013—with the president only feet away. Since then, he has received almost celebrity status and was a featured guest speaker at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
Some of Carson’s comments have gotten him in trouble. During an interview on Hannity in 2013 he talked about homosexuality and bestiality in the same breath, which sparked outrage—especially among students at Johns Hopkins University, where he was scheduled to speak at commencement. He ultimately withdrew as commencement speaker and issued an apology.
He courted controversy again last month when he told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that homosexuality is absolutely a choice—adding that "a lot of people go to prison straight and when they come out, they're gay.”
Born in Detroit, Michigan, Carson is the son of a Seventh-day Adventist preacher. He studied psychology during his undergraduate career at Yale University, then went to medical school at the University of Michigan. He went on to practice neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He retired as a surgeon in 2013, saying he wanted to quit “when I’m at the top of my game.”
Here are 10 things to know about him:
- Carson grew up in what he describes as “dire poverty.”
- At age 33, he became the youngest doctor in Johns Hopkins Hospital’s history to head a division when he was appointed director of pediatric neurosurgery.
- He inspired a made for TV movie called Gifted Hands starring Cuba Gooding Jr.
- He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush in 2008.
- He became the first surgeon to successfully separate twins who were joined at the head.
- He has been extremely critical of President Obama’s policies—even in front of the president. He once called the Affordable Care Act “the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery."
- He’s written six best-selling books, including Gifted Hands, Think Big, The Big Picture, Take the Risk, America the Beautiful, and One Nation.
- He and his wife co-founded the Carson Scholars Fund, a charity that awards $1,000 scholarships to kids nationwide.
- He was registered as an independent until 2013.
- Fox News’ Chris Wallace once likened putting Carson in the Oval Office to “putting a politician in an operating room and having him perform one of your brain surgeries.”
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