Ben Carson Cancels Africa Tour, Cites Security Concerns

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GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson has canceled a planned trip to Israel and Africa, the candidate said Thursday.

Carson planned to visit Nigeria, Kenya and Zambia at the end of the month. His Israel trip was also supposed to occur before the first caucuses.

Spokeswoman Deana Bass confirmed the two trips were canceled due to “security concerns” Thursday morning, with spokesman Doug Watts adding the campaign made this decision Wednesday afternoon.

“There is significant security concerns,” Carson told reporters at an event in Iowa. “It’s classified information so I’m just going to say it’s too dangerous.”

Watts also declined to characterize the threats, but said it was “recommended by the Secret Service based off of briefings they had had.”

He added that the campaign made the final decision, what he called “prudent judgment.”

The trip’s cancellation comes amid heightened scrutiny of Carson’s foreign policy credentials, after he has made a number of embarrassing gaffes including repeatedly mispronouncing Hamas, a Palestinian group classified by the State Department as a terrorist organization, in a speech before Jewish Republicans.

He shrugged off questions about whether this would further weaken his credibility on foreign policy, saying: “I think it’ll make me look smart to not go into some place where there’s a lot of danger.”

The retired pediatric neurosurgeon said he would have liked to see the Zambian Banda twins, who he surgically separated after they were born conjoined, and to visit the Eastern Coast of Africa, the place of his “ancestry,” he said.

“But you know, things will happen in the future,” he said when asked if he was disappointed.

Carson said the Israel trip was also canceled after the Africa trip fell through, saying he would have gone if the two trips were taken together.

“I think this might be a good time to spend a little more time at home,” Carson said.

Watts said dozens of people were set to go on the trip, including staff, Secret Service and press.

Carson is not the only candidate to cancel a planned trip to Israel: GOP front-runner Donald Trump was also supposed to visit the key Middle East ally this month and meet with its prime minister, but canceled the trip amid controversy over his proposal to ban all foreign Muslims from entering the U.S.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke out against the policy.

The Carson campaign had made a request to meet with Netanyahu, as well as some other meetings, Watts said, though nothing had been officially set.

Carson traveled to Jordan last month to visit a Syrian refugee camp.

It’s not unprecedented for candidates to travel abroad with Secret Service protection. Then-Sen. Barack Obama took trips to the Middle East and Europe in 2008, and Mitt Romney in 2012 also took a trip through Europe and Israel.

Carson and Trump are the two GOP candidates so far who have been given Secret Service protection.

Source: CNN