Ben Carson’s campaign admitted to Politico today that part of his storied biography — his application and acceptance to West Point — was a fraud. According to Carson’s biography “Gifted Hands,” as a 17-year-old he met and dined with Gen. William Westmoreland, who had just returned to the country from the Vietnam War. Soon after that meeting, Carson claimed he was offered a “full scholarship” to the military academy (note that all acceptances to West Point for American citizens are full scholarships).
However West Point has no record of Carson even applying to the military academy.
“In 1969, those who would have completed the entire process would have received their acceptance letters from the Army Adjutant General,” said Theresa Brinkerhoff, a spokeswoman for the academy. She said West Point has no records that indicate Carson even began the application process. “If he chose to pursue [the application process] then we would have records indicating such,” she said.
When presented with this evidence, Carson’s campaign conceded the story was false. “Dr. Carson was the top ROTC student in the City of Detroit,” campaign manager Barry Bennett wrote in an email to Poltico. “In that role he was invited to meet General Westmoreland. He believes it was at a banquet. He can’t remember with specificity their brief conversation but it centered around Dr. Carson’s performance as ROTC City Executive Officer.”
“He was introduced to folks from West Point by his ROTC Supervisors,” Bennett went on. “They told him they could help him get an appointment based on his grades and performance in ROTC. He considered it but in the end did not seek admission.”
Or to put it another way, Carson lied.
This calls into question some of his other details of his biography, which CNN has been investigating, such as hitting his mother with a hammer and stabbing someone — all before he reformed himself.
At the core of his narrative of spiritual redemption are his acts of violence as an angry young man — stabbing, rock throwing, brick hurling and baseball bat beating — that preceded Carson’s sudden transformation into the composed figure who stands before voters today.
In his 1990 autobiography, “Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story,” Carson describes those acts as flowing from an uncontrollable “pathological temper.” The violent episodes he has detailed in his book, in public statements and in interviews, include punching a classmate in the face with his hand wrapped around a lock, leaving a bloody three-inch gash in the boy’s forehead; attempting to attack his own mother with a hammer following an argument over clothes; hurling a large rock at a boy, which broke the youth’s glasses and smashed his nose; and, finally, thrusting a knife at the belly of his friend with such force that the blade snapped when it luckily struck a belt buckle covered by the boy’s clothes.
“I was trying to kill somebody,” Carson said, describing the incident — which he has said occurred at age 14 in ninth grade — during a September forum at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.
But nine friends, classmates and neighbors who grew up with Carson told CNN they have no memory of the anger or violence the candidate has described.
Ben Carson has a very impressive resume. He was born into poverty in Detroit and graduated frp, Yale University and the University of Michigan Medical School. As a surgeon he separated conjoined twins and developed a technique for controlling brain seizures. He is the author of numerous books on his medical career and political stances and was the subject of a television dramatic series about his life story in 2009. Looking at the bigger picture, when is hard-pressed to explain why chose to lie about West Point.
It would almost be understandable if Carson wasn’t a medical superstar and invented a resume. But the inescapable fact remains that he lied. This may expose a flaw in his personality and makes one wonder what else he is lying about. In the end, this is going to hurt him and even worse may unleash an avalanche.
*UPDATE* Ben Carson’s campaign is now saying Politico lied. They say they never talked to Politico and that Carson got a verbal offer from West Point recruiters but he decided not to apply. To be honest … I am not sure who is telling the truth.
Carson didn’t say, “I was told that if I applied I would get in easily” but rather that he was offered a scholarship. Putting aside for a moment the fact that all U.S. citizens receive a full scholarship as a condition of acceptance, it remains difficult to how an individual can be accepted but not offered a scholarship.
I also find it hard to believe that a a military officer would ignore the chain of command and go rogue by guaranteeing a full scholarship outside the normal process.
In the end, I am not sure who to believe but will let it go at that for the time being.
Cross-posted at The Lid