In preparation for an interview with Ben Carson on "New Day" Friday, CNN investigated claims the retired neurosurgeon made about his upbringing in his 1990 autobiography "Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story," but was unable to find corroboration for the incidents of violence that are at the core of his story of transformation from an angry young man into the calm, collected GOP hopeful he is today.
Carson claims to have punched a seventh-grade classmate in the head while holding a lock, and attempted to stab a classmate named "Bob" in ninth grade, but CNN spoke to nine people who knew him at the time -- two of whom lived next door to the Carsons and knew young Ben well -- and not a single one of them could corroborate his stories.
Carson has said that this is because he was ashamed of his temper and hid it from the world, but the incident in seventh grade allegedly happened at school, where one classmate, Gerald Ware, said that if it had happened, "it would have been all over the school."
Carson wrote in "Gifted Hands" that people who didn't know him as a youth would "think I'm exaggerating when I say I had a bad temper," but even the people who did know him believe he's exaggerating.
"He got through his day trying not to be noticed," Robert Collier told CNN. "I remember him having a pocket saver. He had thick glasses. He was skinny and unremarkable."
Dorian Reeves, who attended elementary, middle and high school with Carson, said "I personally do not have knowledge of those incidents." Upon learning of them in Carson's book, he said, "I wondered, 'When did that happen?'"
Kevin Fobbs was in the same ROTC unit as Carson, and said that when racial tensions at the school ran high, the GOP hopeful was a voice of reason. "'Forget that, leave that at the door,'" he recounted Carson saying. "'Inside here, this is a safe haven.'"
Fobbs added that although there were "a couple thousand kids" at the school, "we were a very small unit, so you would have heard about [incidents like those Carson described] within like half a day."
Carson is a self-confessed plagiarist, so it's possible that these incidents happened to someone else and he merely appropriated them in order to embellish just how soiled the rags from which he emerged into riches actually were -- but if that's the case, he's not talking.
When CNN contacted Carson's campaign, his adviser Armstrong Williams replied via email, writing "Why would anyone cooperate with your obvious witch hunt? No comment and moving on...... Happy Halloween!!!!!"
Watch our video summary below:
Scott Eric Kaufman
Scott Eric Kaufman is an assistant editor at Salon. He taught at a university, but then thought better of it. Follow him at @scottekaufman or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. MORE FROM Scott Eric Kaufman • FOLLOW scottekaufman • LIKE Scott Eric Kaufman
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