© Greg Nash
Ben Carson bashed the media for playing politics as he pushed back against characterizations of his controversial comments about Muslims during a Friday speech.
"The media is the only business in America protected by the United States Constitution. There was a reason they were protected, they were supposed to be on the side of the people. They were not supposed to pick and choose what side they are on," Carson said at the Values Voter Summit, a conference for religious conservatives.
"One day, they'll come to understand that if the nation goes off the cliff, they are going off with it."
Carson has been on the defense since he said that he would not "advocate" for a Muslim to be president during an interview last Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."
He doubled down that night in an interview with The Hill, where he said the only way he'd support a Muslim is if the candidate “publicly rejected all the tenets of Sharia and lived a life consistent with that.”
During his Friday speech, he emphasized that refusing to advocate for a Muslim candidate doesn't mean he wants to bar one from running.
"We all have the right to decide who we wanted to advocate for," he said.
"Political correctness is ruining our country and we need to stand up for what we actually believe."
Carson's speech to the friendly crowd of evangelical voters came as he continues to rise in the polls. He's taken sole control of second place in most polls, behind only Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump's dance moves mocked on Twitter Trump dances to 'My Way' at inaugural ball Trump White House tells agencies to halt regulations MORE.
The typically reserved Carson set Democratic rival Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersTrump takes reins of divided nation Trump's inaugural from the eyes of a Bernie Sanders delegate The new Washington elite schmoozes over lunch MORE (I-Vt.) in his sights, a stark departure from most of the GOP field's focus on Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham Clinton'Fight Song' played at Trump inaugural ball Trump takes reins of divided nation When Trump says 'Make America Great Again,' he means it MORE. He bashed Sanders for his liberal policy proposals and said that federal regulations are a bigger driver of income inequality.
"That's one of the things that's driving the income gap. Bernie Sanders would have you believe its because rich people exist," he said.
"Let me tell you something, you take every dime from the top 1 percent and you'll still have a gigantic problem. That is a myth, a political sham."
Carson also accused the federal government of bungling the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border by releasing those who are detained there.
"A lot of those people are not from Honduras and Mexico, they are from Iraq, and Somalia and Russia, many of them are hardened criminals," he said.
"It seems like our federal government is fighting against the sheriffs and the people who are down there.”
While latest figures aren't available, a report from the Bipartisan Policy Center says that 93 percent of those apprehended crossing the border illegally in the 2013 fiscal year are from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
As Carson spoke in the conference hall at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, a throng of people filled the hall to a standing-room only crowd.
Carson is second only to Trump in recent polling of evangelical conservative voters, and he warned the audience to push back against liberals who are trying to take religion out of the public realm.
"We've got to stop progressives from trying to drive God out of our land," Carson said toward the end of his speech.
"As they drive him out, look at the direction we are going in: It’s a downward spiral."