(Reuters/Carlos Barria)

Ben Carson's stealing valor: GOP hopeful admits to lying about West Point scholarship

Ironically, just hours earlier he called a CNN report questioning his autobiography "a bunch of lies"


Scott Eric Kaufman
November 6, 2015 10:02PM (UTC)

Earlier today, Ben Carson exploded at host Alisyn Camerota for a CNN report that accused the retired neurosurgeon of lying about key details about his life in his autobiography, "Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story." But his campaign was forced to admit to Politico's Kyle Cheney that he lied about another key detail in his autobiography -- his application and acceptance to West Point.

In "Gifted Hands," Carson claimed that when he was 17 years old, he met with General William Westmoreland, and was offered a "full scholarship" to the military academy. The problems with his story are many -- there's no record of such an offer, nor even of him having applied, and there's not even such thing as a "full scholarship" to West Point.

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Theresa Brinkerhoff, a spokesman for the academy, told POLITICO that "[i]n 1969, those who would have completed the entire process would have received their acceptance letters from the Army Adjutant General," and that "if he chose to pursue [the application process] then we would have records indicating such."

When confronted with this evidence, Carson's campaign manager Barry Bennett confessed to POLITICO that the story was a fabrication.

"Dr. Carson was the top ROTC student in the City of Detroit,” he wrote in an email. "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."

That's quite different from the account in "Gifted Hands," in which Carson claimed that to have represented "the Junior ROTC at a dinner for Congressional Medal of Honor winners, marched at the front of Detroit’s Memorial Day parade as head of an ROTC contingent, and was offered a full scholarship to West Point."

Whether this is the campaign's attempt to deflect questions about other lies by admitting to one printed prevarication is unclear, but for a presidential run predicated on being an honest man and a political outsider, being tripped up by details in his own autobiography doesn't certainly bode well.

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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 skaufman@salon.com.

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