The only African-American member of President Donald Trump's cabinet says his home in Northern Virginia was recently the target of anti-Trump vandals.
Ben Carson, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, told News4 in an exclusive interview inside his home Wednesday night that he believes dialogue can help overcome hate and bigotry.
He pointed out that many Confederate statues were erected "during the civil rights movement, to make a statement," and resisted "pointing fingers" at Trump's response to the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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Carson said his home was vandalized earlier this summer while he was away.
"We were out of town and our house was toilet papered," Carson told News4's Meagan Fitzgerald. "They had painted 'F Trump' on it as well."
He said neighbors cleaned up the mess, and he responded with grace.
"That really is the message that I try to get out to people. You can't necessarily control the animosity and the hatred of someone else, but you can control how you react," he said.
A representative for the local police department said they did not receive a report of the incident. Carson said he did not report it because he believes in ignoring hate and "taking the high road."
When asked about the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, this past weekend and the removal of Confederate monuments, Carson said he believed education is key.
"We need to explain to people that many of the Confederate monuments that were put up were put up specifically during the Jim Crow era, specifically during the civil rights movement, to make a statement," he said.
Fitzgerald asked him several times if Trump's response to the deadly violence displayed the leadership the country needs.
"I want to push back and say it's not about pointing fingers about who should have done what and when they should have done it and when they should have said it," Carson said.
He added that strong leaders, like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., have the power to bring a nation together. But, he said, it's not up to Trump to bring the country together; it's up to the American people.
Carson first spoke about the vandalism of his home in a Facebook post published Wednesday afternoon. He said that several years ago, after he and his family bought a farm in rural Maryland, a neighbor immediately put up a Confederate flag. Other neighbors put up American flags to shame him, Carson said.
"Hatred and bigotry unfortunately still exists in our country and we must all continue to fight it, but let's use the right tools," he wrote. "By the way, that neighbor who put up the Confederate flag subsequently became friendly. That is the likely outcome if we just learn to be neighborly and to get to know each other."