Ben Carson thinks slaves and immigrants are basically the same thing

Dr. Ben Carson has a reputation for eyebrow-raising commentary — and he lived up to it Monday when he compared the struggles of immigrants to those of slaves.

"That's what America is about," Carson, the new head of the federal Housing and Urban Development department, said during an address to HUD employees. "A land of dreams and opportunity. There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less." 

"But they too had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great-grandsons, great-granddaughters might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land," the retired neurosurgeon continued.

Carson enjoyed brief popularity as a candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

His latest remarks won no kudos from actor Samuel L. Jackson, who slammed him in a searing, profane tweet: "OK!! Ben Carson....I can't! Immigrants ? In the bottom of SLAVE SHIPS??!!"

Carson, author of a number of inspirational books based on his own experiences, gained a political following thanks to a compelling life story of having risen from a troubled childhood of poverty to become a world-renowned doctor. 

He appealed to voters through his deep religious faith and soft-spoken dedication to stay above the mudslinging of the GOP contest.

The bubble eventually burst after poor showings in early primary contests. After suspending his campaign, he backed now-President Donald Trump, who tapped him to lead HUD despite his admitted lack of experience in government.

Though he's one of the most, if not the most, highly educated people in the presidential field, Carson has a track record of making statements that have surprised or befuddled political observers.

Trump and Carson, once rivals, are now on the same team.Evan Vucci/AP

During a speech to the Values Voter Summit in 2013, Carson proclaimed the Affordable Care Act "the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery."

In 2015, he continued to defend his decades-old belief that Joseph built the Egyptian pyramids to store grain. 

That same year, he told the New York Daily News, "I can think of some things that would be much more effective than [waterboarding], that would not be torture, that would take advantage of things that we know about the brain."

And at last summer's Republican National Convention, he seemed to claim Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton had an affection for Lucifer

Subsequently, on Sirius XM radio, Carson protested that the press had gotten his message all wrong, even if his HUD audience had not.

"It's only those people who are always trying to stir up controversy" who had a negative interpretation of the speech, Carson said, adding that he thinks it's "kind of sad what the media has degenerated into."

March 7, 2017, 10:28 a.m.: This story has been updated.