Retired neurosurgeon and presidential candidate Ben Carson said Tuesday that he thinks the focus on Donald Trump's recent incendiary comments is "petty" and that the real estate mogul has no reason to drop out of the 2016 race.
"For us to get caught up in a controversy of well, 'What did Donald Trump mean when he said that?' -- It just seems so petty to me," Carson told reporters after speaking to a group of teenage Republicans in Arlington, Va.
Several Republican presidential contenders have said Trump should be disqualified from the presidential race for saying that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is not a war hero. Carson disagreed.
"I’m not sure from listening to what he said that he think that Mr. McCain is not a hero," Carson said. "He has repeatedly said yes, he is a hero, so I don’t know where that comes from that he’s disqualified."
In the interview in which he said McCain was not a war hero, Trump also said that the Vietnam veteran held in prisoner for five and a half years was "perhaps ... a war hero" and "a war hero because he was captured."
Carson himself avoided a question about McCain this weekend, saying in response to Trump's comments that "it depends on your definition of a war hero." On Tuesday, he said McCain was "absolutely" a war hero.
"John McCain did heroic things and we ought to honor him for his service to our country," he said.
In addressing the young Republicans, Carson also said that he, like President Obama, had visited federal prisons.
"I was flabbergasted by the accommodations -- the exercise equipment, the libraries and the computers," he said. He said he was told that "a lot of times when it's about time for one of the guys to be discharged, especially when its winter, they’ll do something so they can stay in there."
At the same time, Carson said that too many Americans are going to prison.
"We're not doing things the right way," he said. "A lot of people that we incarcerate don’t need to be incarcerated."
After the event, he elaborated.
"I think that we need to sometimes ask ourselves, 'Are we creating an environment that is conducive to comfort where a person would want to stay, versus an environment where we maybe provide them an opportunity for rehabilitation but is not a place that they would find particularly comfortable?'" he told reporters.
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds Trump leading the pack of Republican presidential contenders, winning the support of 24 percent of registered Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. Carson takes 6 percent of the vote.