Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson’s press conference in Baltimore on Wednesday didn’t get off to the best of starts.
A Morning Star Baptist Church of Christ member asked Carson’s staffers and the media to leave its vacant lot because they had not sought prior permission to use it for the Trump Cabinet secretary’s press briefing, reported The Atlantic.
Carson ended up delivering his speech, in which he defended President Donald Trump’s racist attacks on Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and the city, nearby.
Church member Gregory Evans told The Baltimore Sun it was “nothing personal” that he asked the trespassers to leave and said he hadn’t known “it was Secretary Carson.”
“I just know there were a bunch of people over there that were taking over our site,” Evans told the newspaper. “And we said, ‘Why are they here?’ They’ve not even asked for permission to be here.”
Carson used the incident in his speech to cameras to complain about “animosity.”
“For instance, you guys know, you were set up on this property, and right here is this church that said: ‘Get off our property.’ You know, a church? When we’re talking about helping the people. I mean, this is the level to which we have sunken as a society,” he said.
Carson worked as a neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for more than three decades. He hailed the “excellent and wonderful people” and “lot of good places” in the city, but said he agreed with Trump that “there are problems and we can’t sweep them under the rug.”
Carson later likened certain parts of Baltimore to a patient with cancer who you can dress up and “put a nice suit on it and you can try to ignore it, but that cancer is going to have a devastating effect,” reported NPR.
He also said Trump was “very willing” to work with Cummings on solutions for the city.