Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump exploded in a three-minute-plus diatribe directed at GOP rival Ben Carson Thursday after the famed neurosurgeon questioned the real estate developer’s faith.
The outburst seemed to leave CNN “New Day” co-host Chris Cuomo stunned, and led to Carson offering an apology.
The exchange is particularly compelling because the two men are atop Republican polls. A CNN/ORC poll found Trump leading the crowded field by 32 percent, with Carson drawing in 19 percent of supporters — far ahead of the other candidates who were all in single digits.
What set Trump off was a statement Carson made Wednesday night, when asked by a reporter in Anaheim, Calif., about the difference between the two.
“Probably the biggest thing — I’ve realized where my success has come from and I don’t in anyway deny my faith in God,” Carson said.
During the CNN interview in response, Trump attacked Carson’s laid-back attitude, his faith, his pro-life stance and even his expertise as a surgeon, Cuomo was barely able to get a word in edgewise.
“Go back and look at his views on abortion and see where he stands. You talk about abortion,” he said by telephone.
“Frankly he makes [Jeb] Bush look like the Energizer Bunny. He’s very low-key,” Trump said of Carson.
“But Ben Carson, you look at his faith and I don’t think you are going to find so much. And you look at his views on abortion, which were horrendous,” he said.
(While Carson maintains he is privately pro-life, he has acknowledged referring pregnant women to doctors who performed abortions in cases of genetic birth disorders.)
Trump said he was leading among evangelical Christian groups and then launched into an attack on Carson’s skill as a surgeon.
“He was a doctor, perhaps an OK doctor, by the way,” Trump said. “You can check that out too. He was an OK doctor, and now because he’s a doctor and he hired one nurse he’s going to be end up being the president of the United States?”
That was the moment Cuomo raised his eyebrows in disbelief.
“I don’t know about ‘OK doctor.’ You know, he was the first man to separate conjoined twins,” Cuomo offered.
Watch the video via CNN.
But Trump wasn’t finished. Following the CNN interview, he continued on the topic during a phone-in interview with the hosts of “The View” on ABC.
He didn’t sound very forgiving.
“I think he started it, and remember I like to finish it,” Trump said. “In all fairness, I don’t know much about his faith. I don’t know Ben Carson and he certainly doesn’t know me.”
A few hours after Trump’s CNN appearance, Carson offered an apology in an attempt to “lower the temperature on their escalating conflict,” according to the Washington Post.
“The media frequently wants to goad people into wars, into gladiator fights, you know,” he told the Post. “And I’m certainly not going to get into that.”
Carson also explained that his comment about Trump’s faith wasn’t meant to criticize him but rather to glean what it is that drives the billionaire.
“I would like to say to him that the intention was not to talk to him but about what motivates me,” Carson said. “If he took that as a personal attack on him, I apologize, it was certainly not the intent.”
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