MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts: Is Dr. Ben Carson ‘Just a Black Sarah Palin’?


Liberals remain fearful of the rising political star of Dr. Ben Carson, and they are on the lookout for any possible way to undermine him. On last Saturday’s Weekends with Alex Witt, MSNBC fill-in host Thomas Roberts did his part by comparing Carson to the Left’s favorite target of ridicule.

Roberts was talking to Republican strategist Joe Watkins about recent controversial statements made by Dr. Carson and Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska). Watkins thoroughly denounced both of the insensitive statements in no uncertain terms. But then Roberts followed up by essentially dismissing Dr. Carson:



"Joe, explain though, why do we care what Dr. Carson says? He’s somebody that doesn't have ambition for a political career, at least the last time I saw him talk about a political career, he says he doesn't want one, he’s more interested in a TV show. So is he just a black Sarah Palin basically, a fire thrower?"

 

Now that is a surefire way to turn liberals and moderates against Dr. Carson: compare him to the ultimate conservative punching bag, a woman who has been practically ridiculed right out of politics by left-wing mudslingers. However, the comparison is silly. Dr. Carson is an incredibly gifted and intelligent man, who, as a career neurosurgeon, is a novice to politics. As someone who lifted himself out of inner-city poverty through hard work and an insatiable curiosity fueled by his mother inculcating in him a love of reading, he cannot be easily dismissed as a dumb conservative. What's more, Carson's pointed, principled, but scrupulously polite criticisms of President Obama’s policies cannot be dismissed as partisan pyrotechnics.


But there is more that’s wrong with Roberts’ comment. First of all, he asked Watkins, “Why do we care what Dr. Carson says?”
 

Here’s a question for you, Thomas: if you don’t think we should care what Dr. Carson says, why are you discussing him on this show? That’s time you could be spending discussing other topics, such as, I don't know, the Kermit Gosnell abortion trial. Where Carson has saved numerous lives in high-risk, intricate surgeries, Gosnell is an abortionist undergoing a murder trial, but if the name doesn't ring a bell, you can blame the media's lack of interest.

Roberts also said Dr. Carson has no ambition for a political career. But Carson has never ruled out taking a stab at an election campaign. As recently as two weeks ago, Carson told The New York Times, “Certainly if a year and a half went by and there was no one on the scene and people are still clamoring, I would have to take that into consideration. I would never turn my back on my fellow citizens.”

Even if we assume Dr. Carson doesn’t want to run for office, there is another flaw in Roberts’s analysis. Roberts implies that we should not care what Dr. Carson says because he doesn’t want a political career. But since when has the media only cared about statements from those who want to run for political office? Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck don’t want to run for office, yet the media eagerly report their every slip-up. Don Imus was an obscure radio host with no political ambitions, yet he was attacked mercilessly for one of his controversial comments back in 2007. 

By dismissing Dr. Carson as a Palinesque flamethrower who doesn’t want to run for office, Roberts seems to be following the Left’s playbook. It’s clear that Roberts, like many media liberals, wants to destroy Dr. Carson before he gains traction politically, whether that be on the national stage or perhaps in Carson's liberal home state of Maryland.

Below is a partial transcript of the segment:

THOMAS ROBERTS: Everybody is really concerned when it comes to the talk about marriage equality, also immigration reform. Joining me now for strategy talk, Republican strategist Joe Watkins, a former aide to President George H.W. Bush, and former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. Gentlemen, it’s great to have you here. Joe, I want to start with you. What were they thinking?



JOE WATKINS: Boy, Thomas, there's really no place in public life for that kind of dialogue, those kinds of words, those kinds of comments. Ben Carson is a good guy, he's a smart guy, he’s been a super successful neurosurgeon, he’s a star in the party, a rising star, but he's got to choose his words carefully. He’s got to use the same kind of precision with his dialogue as he uses with his scalpel when he’s doing an operation. And as for Don Young, that word shouldn't exist in his vocabulary and he waited too long to apologize. There's no excuse for that – that kind of talk, those kinds of words. You don't hurt people and you treat people the way you’d want to be treated.

ROBERTS: Joe, explain though, why do we care what Dr. Carson says? He’s somebody that doesn't have ambition for a political career, at least the last time I saw him talk about a political career, he says he doesn't want one, he’s more interested in a TV show. So is he just a black Sarah Palin basically, a fire thrower?

WATKINS: Well, I think that he's somebody who has indicated that he could be a candidate for the presidency and certainly that's why people are watching. He took time to go to CPAC, which is an important indicator of whether or not you're serious about your political future, and so he took time to go there and to deliver a major speech. So he's someone that people are listening to and watching very closely. He could be a political candidate going forward but he's got to choose his words carefully. The only way the Republican Party is successful or viable as a party in 2014 and 2016 is to create a bigger tent and to have room for everybody, for people who may not – who agree fiscally, on fiscal policy issues, but may not agree on social issues but still can stand side by side with the Republicans. That’s the only way the party becomes more viable going forward.

Paul Bremmer
Paul Bremmer is a Media Research Center News Analysis Division intern.