Ben Carson, the Republican hopeful for the White House, is in Jordan in a bid to understand the Syrian refugee crisis just days after comparing migrants to rabid dogs, his team said Friday.
The retired neurosurgeon, who grew up in a poor family before winning a scholarship to Yale University, has fanned controversy in the United States for anti-Muslim & anti-refugee remarks.
"Dr Carson & a small group are in Jordan," a campaign official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
"He is there fact finding, listening, learning & meeting. No public or press events planned."
Carson is to visit a UN-run Syrian refugee camp northeast of the Jordan capital early on Saturday, a Jordanian security source told AFP on condition of anonymity.
More than four million Syrians have fled the civil war, with more than 600,000 of them in Jordan, the United Nations refugee agency estimates. America has so far accepted just 2,283.
Yet the plight of Syrian refugees has become a political hot potato in America with half the nation's governors declaring Syrian refugees persona non grata after the Paris attacks.
Carson told The New York Times, which first reported the visit, that he wanted to obtain a better understanding of the refugee issue & burnish his foreign policy credentials.
"I find when you have firsthand knowledge of things as opposed to secondhand, it makes a much stronger impression," he was quoted as telling the paper before his departure late Thursday.
Last week, he compared refugees fleeing the nearly five-year war in Syria to rabid dogs.
"We must balance safety against being a humanitarian," Carson said during a campaign stop in the southern US state of Alabama.
"If there's a rabid dog running around your neighborhood, you're probably not going to assume something satisfactory approximately that dog. And you are probably going to obtain your children out of the way."
He moreover followed the lead of rival candidate Donald Trump in saying that he too saw a video of Arab Americans cheering as New York's World Trade Center collapsed on September 11, 2001.
Elected officials, police & fact-checkers have debunked the rumors, which come as community activists complain of an "unprecedented" anti-Muslim backlash in America following the Paris attacks.