Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson has scrapped a planned trip to Africa, which he trumpeted just a few days ago as a chance to explore what he called his ancestral roots in Kenya.
Carson cited “security” concerns, but it’s possible his plunging poll numbers led him to pull the plug on the visit planned for the week after Christmas.
The highlight of his trip was a visit to Kenya. The celebrated neurosurgeon says his ancestors were members of the nomadic Turkana tribe in the East African nation.
“I’ve had that all traced back,” Carson told radio host Hugh Hewitt.
However some Kenyans questioned that claim since very few African-Americans trace their roots to East Africa. Carson also raised eyebrows by claiming the Turkana live along the border with Tanzania, when they actually live in the north of Kenya near the Ethiopian frontier.
Carson’s campaign team did not respond to several Quartz’s emails asking for more detail about the candidate’s African ancestry.
Carson also planned to visit Zambia, where he hoped to visit with Joseph and Luka Banda, conjoined twins that he helped separate in a celebrated operation.
He also was expected to make a stop in Nigeria, where he hoped to burnish his foreign policy credentials by exploring the governement’s battle against Islamist Boko Haram rebels. He also wanted to visit a medical school that is named after him.
Carson also cancelled an unrelated trip to Israel that was scheduled for early January.
Little known outside of evangelical conservative circles, Carson burst into the top rank of the crowded COP presidential field with a potent appeal to Christian conservatives who are particularly likely to participate in the crucial first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1
In recent weeks, Carson, a member of the Seventh-Day Adventist church, has fallen back into the pack amid questions about his temperament and lack of political, foreign policy or decision making experience.
He also raised eyebrows with odd claims, like his assertion that the Egyptian pyramids were used to store grain. They were actually built as elaborate tombs for the pharaohs.
Carson garnered just 11% in a recent national poll, and has also lost ground in Iowa to Sen. Ted Cruz, who is targeting the same pool of evangelical conservative voters.