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Ben Carson says as a pediatric neurosurgeon, he hesitated to send children back to ‘infested’ homes in Baltimore

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson speaks as President Trump signs an executive order to establish a White House council on affordable housing, in the Oval Office of the White House in late June. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson defended President Trump and his characterization of Baltimore as a “rodent infested mess” and said that while working as a pediatric neurosurgeon in the city, he hesitated to send children back to “infested” homes.

Carson, who spent much of his medical career at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, broke his silence Monday night during an interview on Fox News two days after Trump started attacking Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) and the city he represents.

“As a pediatric neurosurgeon, I spent many hours, sometimes operating all night long, trying to give children of Baltimore and other places around the world a second chance at life. And usually we were successful,” Carson told host Tucker Carlson.

“But a few days later, I was in a horrible dilemma, because some of those kids had to go back into homes in East Baltimore that were infested with rats and roaches and ticks and mold and lead and violence,” Carson continued. “And I didn’t want to send them back. Sometimes I would even consider, you know, extra tests so they could stay in the hospital an extra day or two.”

President Trump re-upped his attacks on Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) July 29, just days after calling his Baltimore district a "rodent infested mess." (Video: Michelle Hanks, Darian Woehr, Drea Cornejo/The Washington Post)

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During the interview, Carson, the only African American in Trump’s Cabinet, also pushed back against critics who have characterized Trump’s tweets aimed at Cummings and other minority lawmakers as racist.

Carson cited rising wages and a drop in the unemployment rate under Trump, the president’s efforts to help the manufacturing sector and his embrace of prison reform.

“All of these things are happening,” Carson said. “These are not things that a person who is a racist would do. And we allow ourselves to be distracted by these things.”

In tweets in recent days, Trump has accused Cummings of being “racist and being a “bully” and said he “has done a very poor job for his district and the City of Baltimore.”

Carson said he does not consider Cummings a “bad person.”

“I think he actually is working hard to try to help people,” Carson said. “And I certainly don’t think President Trump is a bad person. He’s working very hard — in fact, I asked him today, would you be willing to work with Elijah Cummings to bring some relief to the people of Baltimore? He said he would be happy to.”

As someone who worked in Baltimore, Carson had faced criticism for not speaking out about Trump’s tweets directed at the city, where he said “no human being would want to live.”

On Monday, for example, Sunny Hostin, co-host of ABC’s “The View” and a former Baltimore resident, questioned why Carson had not condemned Trump’s tweets.

“I’m calling out Ben Carson who spent the majority of his career in West Baltimore,” Hostin said. “As a member of [Trump’s] senior cabinet, where is Ben? Why is he not calling it? He’s in charge of housing for the Trump administration. Where are you? Why are you not defending Baltimore?”