Dr. Ben Carson, whose devoted following among evangelical voters helped push him briefly to the front of Republican presidential polls, turned the other cheek on Friday when he endorsed the man who once compared him to a child molester.
Carson said he “buried the hatchet” with Donald Trump and now wanted to help the New York businessman win the White House.
"Some people have said, ‘Well, why would you get behind a man like Donald Trump?" Carson said in the ballroom of Trump's oceanfront Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, four days ahead of the state's key primary.
"There are two different Donald Trumps," Carson continued. "There’s the one you see on the stage, and there’s the one who’s very cerebral, sits there and considers things very carefully. You can have a very good conversation with him. And that’s the Donald Trump that you’re going to start seeing more and more of right now. "
Asked about Carson's description, Trump seemed to validate it by saying that it was true, and wasn't true. First, he agreed there were public and private versions of his persona. But later in the news conference he reversed himself, saying, "I don't think there are two Donald Trumps."
“I think there’s one Donald Trump," the New York businessman and former reality TV show host said. "But certainly you have—look, all of this, and you have somebody else that sits and reads and thinks, and I’m a thinker and I have been a thinker, and perhaps people don’t think of me that way, because you don’t see me in that forum. But I am a thinker. I thought it was very nice what Ben said, because it is another side of me. I’m a very deep thinker. I know what’s happening."
When Carson rose to the top of the polls in Iowa, Trump launched several unprompted attacks on the retired neurosurgeon. Pointing to one of Carson's books in which the author refers to his "pathological" anger as a younger man, Trump said that word is usually reserved for child molesters. He also mocked Carson's stories about getting into physical fights in his youth.
Trump on Friday said that he had apologized to Carson, and praised his brief rise in the polls.
"The one person that just kept sneaking up on me, I couldn’t lose him, was Dr. Ben Carson," Trump said. "I could not lose that guy. And I was doing well and you know, Trump would be at 28 (in the polls) at that time, and I remember it was 28 and Ben was 18, and then he was 19 and the next week it was like 22. And I said, 'Woah, woah, what’s this happening here?' I don’t like this.'"
Carson, the only black presidential candidate this year, said he would campaign for Trump, but wouldn't focus only on minority voters with whom Trump's campaign has sometimes struggled in nominating contests. Trump's campaign manager Corey Lewandowski shared a similar message.
“Dr. Carson is going to campaign with Mr. Trump, but this campaign has been very clear about not trying to segregate out specific demographics to have a different message for," Lewandowski told reporters before the event. "Mr. Trump talks to everybody exactly the same and if Dr. Carson joins us on the campaign trail, we’re not going to delineate between African-Africans or white Americans or Hispanic Americans or Asian Americans. We have the same message for everybody, which is make America great again.”
During the event, Trump suggested that he might not participate in future Republican debates, and said he wasn't aware of a 13th debate scheduled for March 21 in Utah.
"We've had enough debates," he said. "I mean, how many times do you have to give the same answer to the same question?"
Trump, who spent much of a Thursday-night debate avoiding the personal attacks that have become his hallmark, praised Carson's "confidence" and "strength." He said Carson had approached him about the endorsement and, although they hadn't discussed any position in a potential Donald Trump presidential administration, Carson would be a part of the campaign going forward, particularly on education and health-care issues Carson often addressed during his campaign.
"Maybe Ben doesn’t even know this yet, but Ben’s going to have a big part," Trump said.