The good news for Ben Carson is that there’s finally some breaking news to distract the media’s focus away from his peculiar theories about the pyramids of Giza and the damaging allegations that he didn’t try to murder a child. The bad news is that it’s only because the media has dug up a separate, seriously damaging fabrication from Carson’s past: that he was neither accepted nor offered a scholarship to West Point, as he’s claimed.
Politico reports that a story in Carson’s famous memoir, Gifted Hands, is not true. By Carson’s telling, during his senior year of high school, he was chosen to march in the Detroit Memorial Day parade by nature of his high standing in the city’s ROTC program. Gen. William Westmoreland was in attendance, he writes, “with an impressive entourage.” After the parade, Carson says he was introduced to Westmoreland and “had dinner with him and the Congressional Medal winners. Later I was offered a full scholarship to West Point.” Carson repeats in his later book You Have a Brain that he was offered a full scholarship to West Point. (Note: Tuition for West Point and the other service academies is $0.)
Sure enough, West Point “has no records that indicate Carson even began the application process.” What say ye, Carson campaign manager Barry Bennett?
"Dr. Carson was the top ROTC student in the City of Detroit,” campaign manager Barry Bennett wrote in an email to POLITICO. “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.”
Fabrications of oft-repeated biographical details are bad, in politics. They’re especially bad when they involve the military. And they’re especially especially bad when it looks like this is something of a pattern for the candidate. What will we find out next?
If you’re Ben Carson right now, you sure wish the media would go back to talking about the pyramids.
Update, 2:12 p.m.: The Carson campaign is pushing back hard on the framing in the Politico piece. Here’s a full statement, via the Daily Caller, from campaign spokesperson Doug Watts:
“Dr Carson was the top ROTC student in the City of Detroit. 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. 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. There are “Service Connected” nominations for stellar High School ROTC appointments. Again he was the top ROTC student in Detroit. I would argue strongly that an Appointment is indeed an amazing full scholarship. Having ran several Congressional Offices I am very familiar with the Nomination process.
Again though his Senior Commander was in touch with West Point and told Dr. Carson he could get in, Dr Carson did not seek admission.
The Politico story is an outright Lie. Dr. Carson as the leading ROTC student in Detroit was told by his Commanders that he could get an Appointment to the Academy. He never said he was admitted or even applied.
The campaign never “admitted to anything”
This is what we have come to expect from Politico.
Okay. So basically a well-connected person or two told Carson that if he want to go to West Point he’d probably get in. Politico may have oversold the story as some sort of teary-eyed confession from the Carson campaign—indeed, the Carson campaign argues that it’s hardly “admitting” anything. That doesn’t discount the technical point, though, that Carson has been saying for decades that he was offered entry to the U.S. Military Academy, which is untrue. Again, here is the relevant text from Gifted Hands.
For those looking for ambiguous wording in Gifted Hands on the West Point scholarship, it isn't there pic.twitter.com/erM1sHo283— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) November 6, 2015