In a speech that brought the CPAC crowd to its feet, former Johns Hopkins pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson decried the Obama administration and vowed to continue the sharped-tongued rhetoric that has made him beloved in conservative circles and hated in liberal ones.
“I will continue to defy the PC [political correctness] police who have tried, in many cases, to shut me up! I actually find them pretty amusing.” Carson said.
A favorite of many social conservatives, Carson has been urged by some on the right to run for president in 2016. His CPAC address was seen as one of his most high-profile speaking appearances to date as he considers his options.
The National Draft Ben Carson group, a Super PAC that has raised millions to urge him to mount a campaign, had a strong presence at the weekend convention. As he spoke to the near-full ballroom in National Harbor, Md. outside Washington, members of the audience popped out of their seats to wave banners declaring "Carson 2016" and urging "Run Ben Run!"
"I have several other things to say, but my time has expired," Carson said after having been speaking for about 10 minutes, prompting screams of "No!" from the crowd.
Earlier during the conference, Carson told The Hill that he does not have any desire to run for president but that he will "listen" to the calls for him to enter the race and take them into consideration.
"If the circumstances were to evolve in such a way that that seemed to be what God was calling me to do, I would certainly do it," Carson told The Hill. "And I would never turn my back on my fellow citizens, if there was a hue and cry for such."
Carson used his speech to repeatedly strike back at the "PC police" and said that outrage over several comments he has made -- including when he declared the Affordable Care Act the worst thing since slavery -- have been taken out of context and skewed by the left in order to score political points against him.
“[They] repeat these lies over and over again because they cannot argue the actual facts," Carson said.
Carson burst onto the scene last year at the National Prayer Breakfast, where he took a shot at the Affordable Care Act as President Obama listened from just two seats away.
That declaration made him a celebrity among many conservatives, many of whom were excited by the potential to have a Republican candidate of color -- as the GOP attempts to re-brand and attract more minority voters in 2016 -- who is willing to stump on conservative values.
But he has also earned the ire from the media and many on the left after several comments he made that seemed to equate homosexuality to bestiality.
As he spoke, Carson said that conservatives need to vote out members of Congress who continue to favor increasing the debt ceiling. But he later appeared contradict himself by urging the crowd to support moderate Republicans and congressional Republican incumbents, some of whom have come under fire from the far right for not being conservative enough.
"The ship is about to sail off of Niagara Falls and we're all going to die, but we've got a bunch of people looking over of the side of the ship and they say: there are barnacles on the ship, we have to get the barnacles off." Carson said. "We've got to get the ship turned around first."