Republican U.S. presidential candidate Ben Carson, under attack for embellishing key elements of his biography, lashed out at critics during a debate on Tuesday and said he did not like being “lied about.”
Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, has faced a series of reports in the past week casting doubt on his stories about his violent outbursts as a youth and a scholarship he said he was offered to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
“I have no problem with being vetted,” Carson said. “What I do have a problem with is being lied about and having that put out there as true.”
Carson, 64, was in the spotlight in the fourth Republican presidential debate, having risen to the top of opinion polls. He questioned why Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton had not been subjected to a similar level of media scrutiny.
“We have to start treating people the same and finding out what they really think,” he said. “People who know me know I’m an honest person.”
He spoke during a debate among leading Republican presidential candidates about economic policy. Several agreed they would oppose raising the federal minimum wage, saying it would hurt small businesses and reduce jobs.
With income inequality looming as an election issue, thousands of protesters took to the streets across the United States earlier in the day to demand a $15-an-hour minimum wage for fast food workers.
“Every time we raise the minimum wage, the number of jobless people increases,” Carson said. “I’m interested in making sure that people can enter the job market.”
All of the Democratic presidential candidates including Clinton, 68, have called for an increase in the minimum wage. The federal minimum wage is now $7.25.
But Republican real estate magnate Donald Trump, 69, said a rise in the minimum wage would put businesses in the United States at a disadvantage with foreign competitors.
“We are a country that is being beaten on every economic front,” Trump said. “We cannot do this if we are going to compete with the rest of the world.”
Tuesday’s debate comes at a critical time in the race for the Republican nomination in the November 2016 election, with Carson and Trump fighting to hold their spot atop the polls and Florida Senator Marco Rubio trying to build on the momentum of his last strong debate performance.
Carson has faced a rough week of scrutiny about whether he embellished key aspects of his biography, while Rubio, 44, is under pressure to show he can fight off recent criticism of his inexperience as he tries to unseat fellow Floridian Jeb Bush as a favorite of the party’s mainstream.
Rubio also said he would oppose an increase in the minimum wage.
“If you raise the minimum wage, you are going to make people more expensive than machines,” said Rubio, who has not led opinion polls in any early voting state, and lags Bush, a 62-year-old former governor, and others in fund-raising.
In an earlier debate on Tuesday involving four lower-polling Republican candidates, several accused the Federal Reserve of keeping U.S. interest rates low for political reasons and one called for replacing Fed chair Janet Yellen.
“The Fed should be audited and the Fed should stop playing politics with our money supply,” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal tried to distinguish himself by repeatedly attacking Christie and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee for failing to cut government spending during their tenures as governors.
Christie declined to take the bait, turning the debate back again and again to the need for Republicans to rally around a nominee who can defeat Clinton.
For more on the 2016 U.S. presidential race and to learn about the undecided voters who determine elections, visit the Reuters website. (http://www.reuters.com/election2016/the-undecided/)
(Additional reporting by Megan Cassella and Alana Wise in Washington; Writing by John Whitesides; Editing by Howard Goller)
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