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OTR Interviews

Dr. Ben Carson on skirmish with Trump, visiting Ferguson

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," September 11, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: A very different story tonight for Dr. Ben Carson, from political outsider to top-tier candidate. Retired neurosurgeon, Dr. Ben Carson, continues his upward surge in the polls.

Take a look at this one. A brand new Quinnipiac University poll putting Dr. Ben Carson in second place with 21 percent in Iowa. Only Donald Trump is ahead of him. The Donald pulling at 27 percent. And, perhaps even more impressive, Dr. Carson's numbers jumping up 11 points since July.

And Dr. Ben Carson goes ON THE RECORD. Good evening, sir.

DR. BEN CARSON, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good evening, Greta. Nice to see you again.

VAN SUSTEREN: Nice to see you.

Well, there is one less in the GOP field. What do you think about Governor Perry dropping out?

CARSON: Well, you know, I have gotten to know Rick Perry. He is he a very fine gentleman. A great intellect and a very fine person. And I wish him the best. And certainly if there is a Carson administration, we will certainly be seeking his advice.

VAN SUSTEREN: Have you had a chance to reach out to him? I know it just happened a short time ago.

CARSON: No, I haven't had a chance to talk to hum yet.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Today, you went to Ferguson, Missouri. Why did you go to Ferguson?

CARSON: Because, you know, Ferguson represents something quite unique in America. You know, a couple of years ago, if you said Ferguson, Missouri, people would have said, what? And now virtually everybody knows about Ferguson. And what it represents because what could have -- what happened in Ferguson could have happened in any city in America, you know, given the right combination of factors. And I wanted to learn from the people there what was there to learn? What good came out of that? What were the bad things that came out of that? What can we learn? Because, you know, this is supposed to be a country that is of, for, and by the people? I don't think the leadership can provide good leadership without knowing exactly what it is that the people are thinking and what they want.

VAN SUSTEREN: What happened? In the last eight years, many Americans had hoped with this new administration, President Obama -- people excited about President Obama being elected in 2008, thinking this was a large landmark time in American history. They thought it would get much better. Has it gotten much better or not?

CARSON: I don't see evidence that it's gotten any better. In fact, it seems to be exacerbated to me. There seems to be racial strife and tension right now. And I think we need to be really sitting down and very carefully analyzing.

One of the things that impressed me in Ferguson talking to the mayor, talking to the lieutenant governor, talking to some of the people who were protesters, some of the people whose businesses had been destroyed, is looking at the very cordial relationships that exist between those various groups now because they have gotten to know each other. And if we can start maybe having those kinds of dialogues before the problem begin, I think we have a very good chance of averting a lot of them.

VAN SUSTEREN: Today, you talked, I listened to you speak, and today, you talked about how respect is so important as part of the solution. You've also been quoting as saying, "I believe underdog status is not determined any longer by race, rather it is the circumstances of one's life that should be considered." What do you mean by that? Expand on that.

CARSON: Well, basically, I was referring to my idea of compassionate action as opposed to affirmative action, which was based on race. I think if we give somebody, you know, an extra nod, it should be based on their circumstances. So, for instance, let's say I have a son who is applying to Yale and he has a 4.0 average and 1600 SAT's and is the best thing since sliced bread, and then there is a kid from Appalachia whose father was killed in the coal mines when he was 5 years old and maybe working all that time but still has managed a 3.85 as a grade point average and 1500 SATs, I think I would perhaps like to give him a little extra consideration. It shouldn't have anything to do with race. It should have everything to do with consideration. We have always rooted for the underdog. We have always given them an extra leg up. And that's going to help to strengthen our society if we find ways to give them extra consideration.

VAN SUSTEREN: Am I correct in understanding what you said that you are opposed, at least in this day and age, to affirmative action, which has been focused on helping or giving a leg up or giving some extra attention or help or whatever to African-Americans seeking, for instance, admission to schools and programs?

CARSON: Yeah. I don't think affirmative action is appropriate, but I do think of a compassionate action is. Of course, you know, it may vary from time to time who benefits the most from it. Obviously, whichever group happens to be most disadvantaged would probably be the ones that would benefit the most.

VAN SUSTEREN: You are also in favor of guest worker status to those here without documentation. How do you explain that to people who don't like that? What don't they understand about your view?

CARSON: Well, I think a lot of people like the idea of just rounding everybody else up, who doesn't belong here, and finding some place to send them back to. It sounds pretty good but I don't think it's very practical. But, we have to look at what's pragmatic. You know, a lot of these people have been here for a significant period of time, have worked and supported themselves. And I was talking to a farmer in South Dakota who owns an 8,000-acre farm. He says he could not hire a single American to work on his farm. Not one. And tried very hard, at $11 an hour. I was talking to an owner of a large hotel chain. They told me the same thing. And we're not talking about, you know, slave wages, either. 

So, we have to consider that. We have to consider that if we get rid of all these individuals, and we bring in people and we pay them whatever it is that they want to have, instead of you paying #1.50 for a tomato, you may be paying $3 or $4 for a tomato. Are you willing to do that? That's a discussion that we need to have as a nation. If we are willing to do that, then by all means do it. But let's make sure we go into it with our eyes open.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Today, when I was listening to you, you didn't want to get into a food fight. Reporters asking questions. I realize they do that, reporters, asking questions to every candidate against Donald Trump. However you did take the bait two days ago and you did question his faith. Did you slip by taking the bait on Wednesday or did you intend to because you discussed that -- you talked about whether or not you thought he had faith.

CARSON: No, I think I did slip, and that's why I apologized. You really should not have taken that bait. You know, there is no reason ever to question anybody's faith. That's something between them and God. And, you know, I you just don't want to get into that at all.

VAN SUSTEREN: Dr. Carson, thank you very much for joining us this evening.

CARSON: All right. Always good to be with you, Greta.