Citing his faith in God, Ben Carson said Monday that he doesn't really need U.S. Secret Service protection as he campaigns for president. That was news to the Secret Service, which says Carson approached them about setting up coverage.
“I don’t feel the need for it, quite frankly, but the Secret Service thinks that I need it,” Carson told reporters at an Austin book signing. “I recognize that someone like me, who is very truthful and who really doesn’t subscribe to all the traditional power structures, is probably going to be a target, and I do understand that — but I also think that there’s a God.”
A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, however, said Secret Service involvement was originally Carson’s idea, not the department's. The agency is "in the process of reviewing the request," according to Todd Breasseale, acting assistant secretary in the Office of Public Affairs. Donald Trump, another Republican frontrunner, also put in a request for protection, according to Breasseale.
The candidates “aren’t required to explain” why they’re seeking protection, Breasseale said. The Carson campaign could not be reached for comment.
On a Texas swing to promote his book “A More Perfect Union,” Carson also said he supported state health officials who on Monday announced they will kick Planned Parenthood out of the state Medicaid program — a move that will cut off funding for Planned Parenthood clinics that do not perform abortions but provide well-woman care like cancer screenings and pregnancy tests.
“You know, as far as I’m concerned, Planned Parenthood is on their own,” Carson said. “There’s no way the public should be supporting an institution that has the record that they have.”
Carson received a rock star reception at the book signing at Costco, one of eight stops he’s making in Texas this week. After signing books for a crowd of about 2,000 in San Antonio on Sunday, Carson greeted roughly 500 patrons in Austin to cheers and lasting applause.
Rochelle Drake, a Carson supporter from Round Rock, arrived almost four hours early to ensure her book would be signed. Drake said Carson’s outsider status — he’s a neurosurgeon — elevated him above other candidates she considered supporting, specifically U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.
“I think it is a false assumption, an absolutely false assumption, that you need political experience to be president,” Drake said. “The statesmen who founded this country were farmers, doctors, lawyers, common men. This country is ‘we the people,’ so we the people are the ones who need to be running the show.”
Lori Carr, another Carson fan, echoed the appreciation for Carson’s non-political background.
“He’s not a politician,” Carr said. “That helps me know that he’s very honest, that he’s trustworthy.”
Carr, who got her book signed shortly after noon, said she intended to stick around until the end of the event just to watch Carson engage with his fan base.
“I’ll be here ‘til two o’clock,” she said, laughing. “I just want to stare at him.”
Clarification: This story originally contained a misstatement from the Secret Service about the status of Ben Carson's request for protection.