This story has been updated.
MORAVIA, Iowa — Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson slammed the Republican National Committee on Friday over reports that it was planning a strategy for navigating a brokered convention if Donald Trump emerges as the GOP nominee.
“These are the kinds of things that have resulted in the very corrupt system that has no integrity. And it’s why people don’t trust government anymore. We need to get away from that," Carson said during a press conference here in Iowa Friday.
Earlier Friday, he went even further. “If the leaders of the Republican Party want to destroy the party, they should continue to hold meetings like the one described in The Washington Post this morning,” he said in a morning statement.
That statement was an unusually aggressive one for the retired neurosurgeon, who is known for his calm temperament and has frequently avoided directly throwing punches at his opponents in the Republican primary — even when they have gone out of their way to criticize him directly. Carson went so far as to suggest that he would consider leaving the party if it is “the beginning of a plan to subvert the will of the voters.”
“If this was the beginning of a plan to subvert the will of the voters and replace it with the will of the political elite, I assure you Donald Trump will not be the only one leaving the party," he said. “I pray that the report in The Post this morning was incorrect. If it is correct, every voter who is standing for change must know they are being betrayed. I won’t stand for it."
The Washington Post reported Thursday evening that Republican establishment figures gathered Monday for a private meeting held by RNC chair Reince Priebus, where attendees reportedly discussed how the party should prepare for a floor fight if Trump is the nominee. Party leaders have watched with dismay as outsider candidates, led by the flamboyant real estate mogul, have edged out establishment candidates.
Trump, whose controversial calls to ban all Muslims from entering the country and disparaging remarks about Mexican immigrants have sparked outrage, has left the Republican establishment worried that the party could be setting itself up for a landslide loss in November. But the rise of Trump and Carson has been largely fueled by a strong anti-Washington sentiment across the country and a GOP base that deeply distrusts the Republican leadership.
“This process is the one played out by our party. If the powerful try to manipulate it, the Republican National Convention in Cleveland next summer may be the last convention,” Carson said. He said that he is “prepared to lose fair and square” and stressed that he would support the eventual GOP nominee if he loses in the primary.
But he added: “I will not sit by and watch a theft.”