Ben Carson
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson inadvertently caused a 10-year-old boy to be bullied during a campaign rally in IowaGetty Images

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson's odd attempt to relate to a group of fifth graders ended badly when he asked a group of students who was the "worst student" in their class. The awkward incident occurred during a campaign visit to a private school in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on 7 January.

The candidate's question to a crowd of around 500 people led to over half a dozen classmates pointing their fingers towards a student from Isaac Newton Christian Academy. The room then burst into laughter. According to The Des Moines Register, the targeted student was identified as 10-year-old Seth, who initially turned red in the face but eventually shrugged off the incident.

Seth's mother Robin Blackford, however, was not as quick to shrug off the incident. Blackford told the Register that she was not present during the exchanged but learned about it through a teacher. "As a mother, it kind of saddens me that he would be pointed out like that," she said. "Knowing Seth, I think he'd take it in stride...he's very well-liked by all the students."

Carson attempted to recover from the ill-conceived question. "If you had asked that question in my classroom, there would have been no doubt about who it was," the struggling Republican said. He later told the Register that he believed he'd receive a different outcome to his question. "I figured people would be pointing around to all different people who they didn't like," he said.

Following the rally Carson met with Seth, who was given a copy of the candidate's book by his campaign volunteer. "You're going to be a neurosurgeon, OK," Carson reportedly told Seth. "All you have to do is turn it around."

The campaign rally was one of three public campaign stops in Iowa that Carson made on 7 January. He started off the new year by attempting to reign in his campaign after a major staff reshuffle during the holidays.