UPDATE (Nov. 7, 2015):
Politico has changed its report by Kyle Cheney of yesterday, which is tantamount to an admission that Cheney’s article was erroneous, but there’s no apology.
Breitbart reports that Politico has rewritten the headline and several portions of the text of an article accusing Ben Carson of “fabricating” part of his personal biography involving the Military Academy at West Point. The revised version of Cheney’s article now omits the original version’s declarations that Carson’s statements were false or fraudulent, as seen in an archive of the article.
The original headline reads: “Ben Carson admits fabricating West Point scholarship.” The updated headline reads: “Exclusive: Carson claimed West Point ‘scholarship’ but never applied.”
Retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, who has overtaken Donald Trump in some polls, is no messiah for Republicans.
In his autobiography, Gifted Hands, Carson claimed that in 1969 when he was 17 years old, he was awarded a scholarship to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point after having been introduced to and dined with Gen. William Westmoreland, who had just ended his command of U.S. forces in Vietnam. That meeting was followed by a “full scholarship” to the military academy.
As Carson described it, Sgt. Hunt” — his high school ROTC director — “introduced me to General Westmoreland, and I had dinner with him and the Congressional Medal winners. Later I was offered a full scholarship to West Point.”
Carson said he turned down the scholarship offer because he wanted to be a doctor.
According to Politico, however, West Point has no record of Carson applying, much less being admitted.
This morning, responding to an inquiry from Politico, Carson’s campaign admitted that the story is false: Carson neither applied to West Point nor was he awarded a scholarship.
A West Point spokeswoman said that while it’s possible that Carson had spoken to Westmoreland, the general would never guarantee him entry into the military academy, which would be the case if Westmoreland had offered Carson a scholarship.
One does not simply “apply” to West Point out of the blue. A person must be nominated by a member of Congress or another prominent government or military official, after which, a rigorous vetting process begins. If offered admission, all costs are covered, but there are no “full scholarships,” per se.
Carson immediately disputed Politico‘s account. From DailyWire:
West Point doesn’t offer scholarships: all admission is free contingent on serving in the military afterwards. It thus seems probable that Westmoreland or another military figure tried to recruit Carson, telling him that he wouldn’t have to pay for his education – and that Carson read that as a “full scholarship,” and never applied.
In fact, that’s exactly what Carson’s campaign manager said to Politico in an email:
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.
Politico‘s report Carson’ and West Point follows previous questions about the truthfulness of his claim in his memoir to have attempted to stab a close friend. Carson said on Meet The Press:
“As a teenager, I would go after people with rocks, and bricks, and baseball bats, and hammers. And, of course, many people know the story when I was 14 and I tried to stab someone. You know, fortunately, you know, my life has been changed. And I’m a very different person now.”
As described by Carson, the attempted stabbing was a pivotal moment in his life when he recognized his temper and began to find God.
The problem, as Gideon Resnick at the Daily Beast points out, the story has shifted considerably over the years. Sometimes Carson and his psuedonymous friend “Bob” are at Bob’s house; other times, it’s painted as a random street encounter. Sometimes, it’s “Bob” who’s the villain, as in 2014: “I had been minding my own business when a classmate came along and began to ridicule me.”
In every instance, Bob ends up nearly-stabbed, with his belt buckle to thank for deliverance. However, CNN asked Carson’s childhood friends and acquaintances, and no one recognizes the story or the violent kid being described:
All of the people interviewed expressed surprise about the incidents Carson has described…. Some of those interviewed expressed skepticism, but noted that they could not know what had happened behind closed doors.
Gerald Ware, a classmate at Southwestern High School said he was “shocked” to read about the violence in Carson’s book.
“I don’t know nothing about that,” said Ware, who still lives in southwestern Detroit. “It would have been all over the whole school.”
Carson’s campaign manager told CNN they would not answer questions about the attempted stabbing incident.
Whatever the truth is about Carson, Westpoint, and the childhood stabbing incident, there are other reasons for us to have reservations about Ben Carson. They include:
1. Carson believes no one should be exempted from vaccination
In February 2015, Carson told The Hill that there should be no “philosophical” or “religious” exemptions for vaccinations. He said:
“Although I strongly believe in individual rights and the rights of parents to raise their children as they see fit, I also recognize that public health and public safety are extremely important in our society. Certain communicable diseases have been largely eradicated by immunization policies in this country and we should not allow those diseases to return by foregoing safe immunization programs, for philosophical, religious or other reasons when we have the means to eradicate them.”
2. Carson’s strange views on Christianity
Ben Carson is a Seventh Day Adventist (see here on whether SDA is Christian). As reported by Steve Dease of Townhall.com, Caron posted “on Facebook that Easter wasn’t about Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world, and ensuing resurrection proving he was the only Son of God. Rather, Carson posted Easter was about ‘acceptance’ and said Christians and Muslims are children of the same God. That, of course, would be news to Christians and Muslims alike. Since one side says the basis for their faith is Christ’s resurrection from the dead, and the other side claims he was never crucified in the first place. One side says ‘God has no son’ and the other begs to differ. Christians and Muslims could both be wrong, but they can’t both be right unless you’re bi-polar and have no problems with glaring contradictions.”
3. Carson’s common ground with rabid racists Al Sharpton and Julian Bond
In an April 2015 opinion piece in National Review, Carson wrote that while they have different methods, “Sharpton and I have the same goal – to build a brighter, stronger America that provides equal opportunities and access to the underserved and forgotten.” In August, on the death of former NAACP chairman Julian Bond, Carson wrote, “I am deeply saddened to learn about [the passing of] America civil rights leader, Julian Bond. May we continue to honor him for his contributions to society.”
Conservative black columnist Mychal Massie takes exception in both cases. Massie writes:
My question to Carson is: Just what contributions to American society did Julian Bond make? Does Carson suggest that hatred, racist diatribes, racist accusations, fomenting racial acrimony, messages of Leninist ideology that rivaled Du Bois, ad nauseum were in some way beneficial to America? I demand Carson enumerate just what Julian Bond did to improve America?
[…] Julian Bond lived in a day and time when he could have moved America forward, instead, as an autocrat of animus and immiseration he led the NAACP and racial harmony into decline.
[…] The very fact that Sharpton isn’t serving a lengthy prison sentence for the laundry list of racial melees he has instigated over the years, suggests to me that Carson is either blindly or purposefully ignoring how good all people have it in America.
Dease has these parting words to say about Carson:
America needs the Sharptons of the world sent back under the rocks from whence they came, not genuflected to. Carson is a healer, and a great one at that. But what this nation really needs is a wartime president, capable of defeating our enemies both foreign and domestic.
Massie is even blunter. He warns us that Ben Carson “is another Colin Powell but this time disguised as renowned doctor. You will remember that immediately after Obama was elected, Powell ceased his charade of being a conservative.”