Only hours from the fourth Republican presidential debate, Dr. Ben Carson is pushing back on the massive amount of negative media coverage he has received.
But are the investigations into Carson’s past legitimate, or are they completely flawed?
This is a Reality Check you won’t see anywhere else.
“As a scientist who does investigations that is the most lame investigation I have ever seen,” Carson said. “Where you get random people in the neighborhood… you must know about incident… a bunch of garbage. The only people who would know about that would be the people who were involved.”
That was Carson responding this weekend to the barrage of media stories questioning his past and accounts made in Carson’s book Gifted Hands. The attacks against Carson were made by major media outlets CNN and Politico.
Let’s start with CNN, which attempted to challenge statements from Carson’s book in which he claimed in his youth to have punched a classmate in the face with his hand wrapped around a lock, leaving a bloody three-inch gash in the boy’s forehead; attempted to attack his own mother with a hammer following an argument over clothes; hurled a large rock at a boy, which broke the youth’s glasses and smashed his nose; and, finally, thrust a knife at the belly of his friend with such force that the blade snapped with it luckily struck a belt buckle covered by the boy’s clothes.
CNN set out to find classmates who Carson says were victims of the attacks, calling CNN’s inquiries into his past a witch hunt.
In the CNN story, the reporters went to Detroit to interview people who might have known Carson growing up. They claim that of the nine people they found who went to the same school as Carson, none had knowledge of the events.
And that’s it. The entire basis of the report was that because CNN couldn’t find anyone, after talking to nine people, who could remember these events where Carson may have been violent two or three times in his young life, the story isn’t true.
Come on. That is such a low bar of journalistic standard. I’m not sure there is a bar.
That’s CNN. What about Politico?
That story was initially headlined “EXCLUSIVE: Ben Carson admits fabricating West Point scholarship.” It seemed like the sort of story that had the potential to ruin Carson’s ambitions for the presidency.
But within a day or two the Carson campaign called the story “an outright lie” saying that neither Carson nor his campaign had admitted anything.
So Politico changed the headline while standing by its story.
Politico’s initial story claimed that Carson’s campaign admitted “that a central point in his inspirational personal story was fabricated: his application and acceptance into the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.”
But Reality Check—there is no evidence in Politico’s story that Carson ever claimed to have applied to West Point.
Carson has said several times that he was “offered a full scholarship to West Point.”
He made that claim in his book, Gifted Hands, and in several media interviews, including during an appearance on Charlie Rose last month.
But Carson has now attempted to clarify that he had instead been given an informal offer or “nomination” to attend West Point.
Carson told the New York Times, “Because I had done so extraordinarily well you know I was told that someone like me—they could get a scholarship to West Point. But I made it clear I was going to pursue a career in medicine…”
So what you need to know is that these stories do not hurt Carson. But they do hurt an already badly damaged media in America.
Look, there are so many legitimate questions that can be asked about whether a man who is without question a brilliant surgeon would also be a brilliant president.
There are so many questions that should be asked about whether Carson is ready to deal with foreign policy, the economy, America’s massive drug war, the surveillance state—you name it.
And to waste time trying to prove that Carson didn’t have violent outbursts over 50 years ago, is it any wonder that only 40 percent of Americans trust media? That number each year hits a new all-time low.