OTR Interviews

Has Pres. Obama betrayed the African-American community?

Dr. Benjamin Carson sounds off on the controversy over the president's nominees for his Cabinet in his second term and how both parties are guilty of ignoring the inner city


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," March 27, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: President Obama under fire not from his opponents, but from his biggest supporters. The Congressional Black Caucus blasting the president for a lack of the diversity in his cabinet, but is that fair? Dr. Ben Carson is director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University and the author of "America the Beautiful." He joins us. Nice to see you, doctor.


VAN SUSTEREN: Doctor, the Congressional Black Caucus is giving the president a bit of a hard time about the number of African-Americans in his cabinet. Is that fair to the president?

CARSON: People do things based on their priorities. And it doesn't mean that he is not interested in diversity. It just means that that's not one of his greatest priorities right now.

VAN SUSTEREN: Does it say something about the priorities of the Congressional Black Caucus?

CARSON: Well, yes, obviously, it does. Probably it would be a good idea for them to engage him in some conversations and talk about what their goals are and what his goals are and see if they can mesh. Just like just about everything up on Capitol Hill, a little bit of open, honest conversation could go a long way.

VAN SUSTEREN: Doctor, for years I did poverty work in middle of the large city here in Washington D.C., and my clients almost 99 percent of them, were African-American and so, you know, this issue of inner city poverty is one that I've been very interested in for decades. I'm curious, do you have any thoughts how to sort of break that cycle of the horrible poverty and unemployment in the inner cities, because whatever we're doing right now is not working?

CARSON: Yes, I have thought about it frequently. And what we have to do, first of all, is make sure that we give people opportunities. You can't -- you can lead a horse to water, obviously, you can't make him drink it. But we need to make sure that the water is there for them to drink.

And one of the things that we don't need to do is enable people. You know, in the '60s, the great war on poverty, there were so many programs that were enacted that I think crippled people and decreased their desire to escape from certain situations. And that's not productive.

So we need to make sure that they want to escape and then provide them with a mechanism to do so, reward them when they do so. More and more people will begin to see that there is a way out, that a lot of it has to do with their own work, but also the fact that people are willing to give them opportunities.

And one of the things that you just are talking about here in terms of the president and whether his cabinet looks diverse or not, one has to actually set goals and say we want to make sure that we have a society and a workforce that's reflective of the society.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, regrettably, you can probably send a camera out to the community and find someone who says, you know, I want all my free stuff. And that goes on TV and some people think that's what people in the inner city want. That's not my experience. I think they want to educate their children and grow up and have a better life than they have.

How do you actually do the nuts and bolts? And how do we transform a community that's had so many entitlements and perhaps that may have crippled them in your words, how do we sort of engage it into the other direction and give them the opportunity?

CARSON: Well, first of all, you have to make people aware, people in the business community, people who do the hiring, that they're actually doing themselves a favor when they create opportunities for people to escape from poverty, because those are people that don't have to pay for it in the penal system or the welfare system, and they become taxpaying, productive members of society who can buy the products that you make. So the more such people that we produce, the better off we're going to be. So they have to be the ones who really buy into this, so there's some education there.

But at the same time, we need to bring personal responsibility back into the equation. There is no question that there is a segment of our society that likes to keep people in a subservient position by giving them everything. And that has nothing to do with whether they're African- American or any other race. That's human nature. So you want people to have a desire to move forward. You don't want people to be complacent in a situation where they are and enable them to be that way.

VAN SUSTEREN: Dr. Carson, thank you. I think you're my first neurosurgeon on the air, but even more importantly, you're the first Presidential Medal of Freedom winner, which is the highest civilian honor that you got from President Bush. Thank you, sir.

CARSON: Thank you.