Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson has come under fire for asserting that poverty is "a state of mind."
The retired neurosurgeon and former presidential candidate made the controversial remarks during an interview with conservative media personality Armstrong Williams on May 23, according to The New York Times.
"I think poverty to a large extent is also a state of mind," Carson said. "You take somebody that has the right mindset, you can take everything from them and put them on the street, and I guarantee in a little while they'll be right back up there."
Conversely, he suggested that those living in poverty are determined to stay where they are.
"And you take somebody with the wrong mindset, you could give them everything in the world, they'll work their way right back down to the bottom," he said.
Carson went on to say that it largely comes down to parenting.
"A lot of it has to do with what we teach children. You have to instill into that child the mindset of a winner," he said, adding that "there's also a poverty of spirit. You develop a certain mindset."
He also stated that the government has a role to play in helping people who have the wrong outlook on life.
"I think the majority of people don't have that defeatist attitude, but they sometimes just don't see the way, and that's where government can come in and be very helpful," he said, according to CNN. "It can provide the ladder of opportunity, it can provide the mechanism that will demonstrate to them what can be done."
Social media users were quick to slam Carson for his comments.
"Ben Carson says that poverty is a 'state of mind,'" actor George Takei wrote on Twitter. "You know what else is a state of mind? Always being a blithering idiot."
"Ben Carson said poverty is a state of mind," political analyst Zerlina Maxwell tweeted. "Next month, I'm going to tell my landlord that I paid my rent with positive thinking!"
Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey of New York also took aim at Carson on Twitter.
"Dear [Secretary Carson]," she wrote. "States of mind: Happy, Sad, New York. NOT a state of mind: Systemic poverty."
Carson is known for publicly expressing controversial views. During an interview with Breitbart in 2014, he compared the United States government to Nazi Germany, according to CNN.
The following year, he explained that he thinks the Egyptian pyramids were constructed in order to store grain, as opposed to serving as tombs for the pharaohs.
As Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Carson directs a federal agency responsible for managing housing for millions of low-income Americans.