Dr. Ben Carson endorsed Donald Trump for president on Friday morning, dealing yet another blow to those desperately hoping to prevent Trump from becoming the Republican nominee.
"I have known Donald for many years. He is a successful businessman who has built a recognizable global brand that no one can question," said Carson, a former presidential candidate whom Trump had savagely attacked on the campaign trail, in a statement. "His experience as a businessman is exactly what we need to move our economic engine in the right direction."
Alone, Carson's support probably doesn't change all that much. But coupled with several other recent high-profile endorsements — including those of Sen. Jeff Sessions and Gov. Chris Christie — Trump can legitimately claim to be consolidating the backing of influential conservative leaders.
"I think the Republican Party in particular would be very wise not to adopt a, 'Let's promote this guy and let's stop this guy' policy," Carson said in remarks carried live on CNN from Palm Beach, Florida. "What I've seen recently is political operatives and parties trying to assert themselves and thwart the will of the people. I find that an extraordinarily dangerous place to be."
Carson also has lots of support among evangelicals voters, some of whom may take Carson's cue to throw their support to the New York billionaire.
Carson's bizarre endorsement: "There are two different Donald Trumps"
In announcing his endorsement, Carson essentially called Trump a showman who had created a misleading public impression to disguise his true nature.
"There are two different Donald Trumps: there's the one you see on the stage, and there's the one who is very cerebral, sits there, and considers things very carefully," Carson said. "You can have a very good conversation with him."
Given Trump's public persona, Carson said he was surprised to learn how much the two saw eye to eye in private.
"There's a lot more alignment, philosophically and spiritually, than I ever thought there was," Carson said. "That actually surprised me more than anything, because I do recognize how a person's image can be greatly distorted having been the victim of that."
Carson made clear he wanted to endorse "the real" Trump, suggesting that Trump's more outlandish tendencies would be dialed back — as they were during last night's debate — while the general election approaches.
"As [the American people] begin to see the real individual there, I think we're going to be comforted as a nation," Carson said. "And that's the Donald Trump you're going to start seeing more and more of right now."
Trump brutally attacked Carson during the campaign
In today's press conference, Carson and Trump praised each other at length, with Carson citing Trump's financial acumen and Trump calling Carson a brilliant expert on health care and education.
Their relationship hasn't always been so rosy. About four months ago, with Carson's rising in the polls, Trump unleashed a ferocious attack on the retired neurosurgeon, striking in its intensity even for this campaign cycle.
Here's what Trump said in November 2015 about the man he heaped praise on today:
[Carson] said he’s got pathological disease. He actually said pathological temper.
And then he defined it as disease. So he said he has pathological disease.
Now. If you’re pathological, there’s no cure for that, folks.
Okay, there’s no cure for that ... If you’re a child molester, a sick puppy, you’re a child molester, there’s no cure for that. There’s only one cure — we don’t want to talk about that cure. That’s the ultimate cure. Well, there’s two, there’s death, and the other thing.
At another point in that November 2015 speech, Trump appeared to mock Iowans for buying Carson's brand. "How stupid are the people of Iowa? How stupid are the people of the country to believe this crap?" Trump said.
"We buried the hatchet"
But on Friday, there was nothing but accord.
"We buried the hatchet," Carson said of the former attacks. "That was political stuff."
Carson acknowledged that there were those who would be perplexed by his endorsement, given that Trump had compared Carson to a "child molester" in November 2015.
"Some people say, 'Why would you get behind a man like Donald Trump?'" Carson said. "Some people said, 'But he said terrible things about you. How can you support him?'"
This seems like a logical question: How can Carson — who has repeatedly stressed the importance of civility in politics — support someone so divisive?
"I do recognize it's a part of the process. We move on, because it's not about me and it's not about Mr. Trump. It's about America," Carson said.
Trump appeared satisfied with the explanation. "It's such an honor to have Ben," Trump said. "He's become a friend."