- The Washington Times - Friday, November 6, 2015

Ben Carson’s presidential campaign is pushing back against press questions about the retired neurosurgeon’s life story — accusing news outlets of spreading “outright” lies about central elements of the GOP presidential front-runner’s inspirational personal narrative.

Politico reported Friday the Carson campaign admitted to the publication that he fabricated a story in his book “Gifted Hands” about receiving a “full scholarship to West Point.” The story follows a separate CNN report this week that raised questions about some of the stories that Mr. Carson has told over the years about his temper — including how he tried to stab someone in a fit of rage as a teenager.

But Barry Bennett, Mr. Carson’s campaign manager, told The Washington Times Friday that both both reports are an “intentional twisting of the facts.”

Mr. Bennett described the Politico report as an “an outright lie,” and said Mr. Carson’s rivals are likely feeding the stories to the media in an attempt to stop his momentum in the GOP nomination race.

“I think somewhere there is a Republican candidate who is very nervous who is circulating a lot of dirt,” he said.

The Politico report pointed to excerpts from Mr. Carson’s book “Gifted Hands” where he shares a story of being introduced to Gen. William Westmoreland in 1969 after marching in a Memorial Day parade.

“I had dinner with him and the Congressional Medal winners. Later I was offered a full scholarship to West Point,” Mr. Carson wrote in the book.

Mr. Carson has repeated the claim on numerous occasions, including over the summer on his Facebook page.

“I was the highest student ROTC member in Detroit and was thrilled to get an offer from West Point,” he said in response to an online question.

A spokesperson for West Point told Politico that there was no record showing that Mr. Carson began the admissions process.

Politico also reported that public records from the U.S. Army appeared to contradict Mr. Carson’s story by showing that Mr. Westmoreland was in Washington, not Detroit, at the time.

Mr. Bennett said Mr. Carson was the top ROTC student in Detroit, and was told by his ROTC supervisors that his grades and performance in ROTC could get him an “appointment” to West Point.

Mr. Carson never followed up by going through the admissions process, but Mr. Bennett said that doesn’t detract from the story that Mr. Carson was offered a place — which counts as a scholarship.

“I would argue strongly that an appointment is indeed an amazing full scholarship,” Mr. Bennett said.

Mr. Carson dialed back his prior characterizations of the “offer from West Point” during an interview Friday with The New York Times.

“I don’t remember all the specific details,” Mr. Carson said. “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.

“It was, you know, an informal ‘with a record like yours we could easily get you a scholarship to West Point,’” he said.

A Politico spokeswoman said the outlet stands by the story, calling it “a powerful debunking of a key aspect of Ben Carson’s personal narrative” and said the online story now includes additional details that bolster the account.

Mr. Carson also defended himself against the CNN investigation earlier in the day.

“This is what it is, a bunch of lies, attempting, you know, to say I’m lying about my history,” Mr. Carson said on CNN’s “New Day” program. “I think it’s pathetic and basically what the media does is they try to get you distracted with all of this stuff so that you don’t talk about the things that are important. Because we have so many important things. You know, I’m not proud of the fact that I had these rage episodes. But I am proud of the fact that I was able to get over them.”

CNN’s reporting found that people that knew Mr. Carson during his formative years did not remember him as someone with the sort of raging temper that Mr. Carson talked about in his book and on the campaign trail, where he says his poor behavior played into his spiritual redemption.

Mr. Carson and his campaign have refused to help CNN connect with the people Mr. Carson talks about in his life stories, saying they want to protect their privacy.

Armstrong Williams, Mr. Carson’s business manager, told CNN Friday that, “It is not as if we are behind the scenes saying to anyone, ‘Don’t go forward. Don’t go forward.’”

“We actually would welcome them coming forward,” Mr. Williams said. “But, again, it has to be their decision and not through our encouragement.”

The questions about Mr. Carson’s candor follow a series of polls that show him leading in Iowa as well as nationally.

He is poised to take center stage with real estate mogul Donald Trump at next week’s fourth GOP debate in Milwaukee.

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