This story has been updated.
Business mogul Donald Trump struck back Thursday at his closest presidential rival, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, as the war of words between the two continued to escalate.
Carson attacked Trump in unusually sharp terms yesterday, seeming to question his faith. On Thursday, Trump went after Carson’s energy level — and played down his medical accomplishments, saying he was only an “okay doctor” (Carson was the first neurosurgeon to separate conjoined twins attached at the head.)
“He makes [Jeb] Bush look like the Energizer bunny,” Trump said on CNN Thursday morning. “Who is he to question my faith? … When he questions my faith, and I’m a believer big-league in God, the Bible…I will hit back for that.”
“He was a doctor… perhaps an OK doctor,” he also said, adding that “Ben Carson will not be the next president of the United States.”
Trump’s comments, which are the most aggressive he has made about Carson, come less than a day after the retired surgeon pointed to his faith when asked what he believes to be the biggest difference between himself and Trump.
“The biggest thing is that I realize where my success has come from, and I don’t any way deny my faith in God,” Carson Wednesday night. “And I think that probably is a big difference between us.”
Trump also defended himself Thursday over an attack he launched on another outsider candidate: a comment that appeared to take aim at GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina’s appearance.
“Look at that face!” Trump reportedly told Rolling Stone while talking about Fiorina, according to a profile published Wednesday “Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!”
The billionaire added: “I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not s’posedta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?”
Trump defended his comments on Fox News Thursday morning, dismissing the notion that he was talking about Fiorina’s physical appearance.
“Probably I did say something like that about Carly,” Trump said. “I’m talking about persona. I’m not talking about look.”
Trump landed in hot water last month amid on ongoing feud with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, whose questions about Trump’s past statements directed toward women unnerved the candidate. He later accused her of being unfair and at one point insinuated that the tough question was motivated by her menstrual cycle.
“She gets out and she starts asking me all sorts of ridiculous questions,” Trump said on CNN. “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever. In my opinion, she was off base.”
Fiorina, speaking to Kelly on Wednesday night about the comments, indicated that perhaps the ire is due to her recent bump in the polls. “Maybe, just maybe, I’m getting under his skin a little bit because I am climbing in the polls,” she said.
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush denounced Trump’s remarks about Fiorina Thursday morning on social media, saying that they are inappropriate for a presidential candidate.
So did Scott Walker:
Meanwhile, a CNN/ORC poll released Thursday morning shows Trump surging to even greater heights in the polls, with the support of 32 percent of GOP voters. Carson had 19 percent, followed by Bush in third place with 9 percent.