Trump defended his comments about Carson's Seventh-Day Adventist faith on Sunday.
“I know nothing about it really. I’m a Presbyterian and I had mentioned that, and I did say I don’t know about it. And in fact those are my exact words,” Trump said on ABC's This Week. “I didn’t say anything bad about it. I just don’t know about it. I would certainly give an apology if I said something bad about it. But I didn’t. All I said was I don’t know about it.”
At a campaign event in Iowa a day earlier, Trump appeared to portray Carson's faith as out of the mainstream.
“I love Iowa. And, look, I don't have to say it, I'm Presbyterian,” Trump said. “Can you believe it? Nobody believes I'm Presbyterian. I'm Presbyterian. I'm Presbyterian. I'm Presbyterian. Boy, that's down the middle of the road folks, in all fairness. I mean, Seventh-day Adventist, I don't know about. I just don't know about.”
Trump's comments come days after a Quinnipiac poll and the Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll this week found that Carson had surpassed him in Iowa. The two were tied in Iowa in a CBS poll out Sunday.
Carson has called on Trump to apologize for disparaging his religion, but the billionaire front-runner said he would do no such thing.
“Well, I didn’t say anything bad about it. I just don’t know about it,” Trump said on This Week. “I would certainly give an apology if I said something bad about it. But I didn’t. All I said was I don’t know about it.”
Host George Stephanopoulous then asked Trump whether his focus on Seventh Day Adventism was an attempt to try and diminish Carson's support among evangelicals in Iowa.
“No, not at all. In fact, I think nationwide I’m beating Ben with the evangelicals,” Trump responded. “But, no, not at all. I just don’t know about that particular religion.”
Trump also downplayed Carson's recent polling strength in Iowa, going after him with the vigor he once reserved for Jeb Bush.
“Well, in Iowa he is” leading, Trump said on ABC. “Not everywhere else, because everywhere else I see they’re all different people all over the lot, all scattered all over the place. New Hampshire is totally different. In New Hampshire I have a massive lead and we have different seconds. You look at different states, it seems to be a lot of different people. But certainly in Iowa, he got a lot of PR by going a little bit ahead of me in Iowa. But we’ll see what happens because I find it hard to believe.”
Trump also payed a lot of attention to Carson on Twitter Sunday, sending out several tweets and retweets about the retired neurosurgeon.
It's the kind of attention Trump had previously been paying to Bush, and real-estate mogul clearly hopes it will have a similar effect. In Trump's Sunday appearance on CNN's State of the Union, he lumped the Carson and Bush into the same category.
“I think Ben Carson is lower-energy than Jeb, if you want to know the truth. We need strong energy,” Trump said. “I did talk about Jeb because I thought Jeb was going to be the front-runner. Obviously he's no longer the front-runner and I probably won't talk about him so much anymore.”