ORANGEBURG, S.C. (UPI) — Speaking at historically black South Carolina State University, Dr. Ben Carson compared attacks on his campaign to white masters who would pit slaves against each other.

During the speech, Carson dismissed claims by critics that he wants to eliminate government programs as a “total lie.”

Previously, the retired neurosurgeon had called for eliminating dependence on government programs.

“It’s a typical tactic people use in order to drive wedges,” he told the crowd. “It’s the same kind of wedge that’s been driven particularly in the black community in this country for hundreds of years.”

“Back during the time of slavery, they’d tell the people in the house, you’re better than the ones in the yard,” he continued. “If they could keep them divided and at each other’s throats, you would never have to worry about the strength of that community overcoming the masters. That very same thing is going on today.”

Politico reported Thursday that the audience was predominantly black.

Carson had hopes to win over black Democrats in the Palmetto State, which, despite having relatively few black Republicans, has an open primary on Saturday for the Republican candidates.

Carson told the crowd that critics don’t want to see “black people who are conservatives, liberals, working together to solve the problems.”

The loudest applause of the event was not for Carson, but for an audience member who pleaded with him to stop attacking President Obama and criticized the candidate’s previous remarks that the Affordable Care Act was “the worst thing since slavery.”

“I regret a lot of the inflammatory language I used,” Carson responded.

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