Carson, in fading campaign, says Obama was 'raised white'

WASHINGTON (AP) — Ben Carson is trying to reinvigorate his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination by becoming the latest to question Barack Obama's blackness ahead of critical upcoming votes.

Carson, the only black candidate among the Republicans and Democrats, said in a series of recent interviews that Obama was "raised white" and doesn't represent the "black experience" in the United States.

"He didn't grow up like I grew up," Carson said on MSNBC. "Many of his formative years were spent in Indonesia. So, for him to, you know, claim that, you know, he identifies with the experience of black Americans, I think, is a bit of a stretch."

He told a Politico podcast released Tuesday that the president was "raised white."

Carson's comments helped him break through the cacophony of speeches and interviews by front-runner Donald Trump and rivals Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and John Kasich. Carson came in near the bottom in last week's Republican primary in South Carolina and faces a struggle in the Super Tuesday primaries March 1.

Carson's "lashing out. His campaign is on its last leg," said Leah Wright Rigueur, a professor of public policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. "His comments are not geared toward black audiences; they're geared toward white conservatives."

Carson has made race-based attacks before, saying in 2013 that Obama's signature health care overhaul "is the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery." And he's suggested he is still waiting to see evidence of racial bias by U.S. law enforcement agencies.

Obama, once a curiosity because his mother was white and his father was black, has been fully embraced by many black Americans as one of their own. Carson, however, has lost some admiration that many blacks held for his life story and medical accomplishments as a neurosurgeon with his conservative views that have won praise in heavily white Republican circles.

"They assume because you're black, you have to think a certain way," Carson said in the Politico interview.

Angela Johnson Meadows, who worked for Diversity Best Practices, an organization that promotes diversity, says that view combined with Carson's comments on Obama are "ironic and a bit hypocritical."

Meadows defined a black experience as something that can happen to a black person or to someone who identifies as black. For example, she said, many blacks have roots in the South, are church-going, love soul food, and other things that make up a "black experience" — but those things alone do not define blackness, she said.

Carson not the first to level "blackness" criticism at Obama.

In a 2011 interview on MSNBC, longtime critic Cornel West said Obama "always had to fear being a white man with black skin. ... All he has known culturally is white."

Media magnate Rupert Murdoch said on Twitter in October: "Ben and Candy Carson terrific. What about a real black president who can properly address the racial divide?" Murdoch tweeted. He later apologized.


Jesse J. Holland covers race, ethnicity and demographics and Errin Haines Whack covers urban affairs for The Associated Press.

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