- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 8, 2015

After a week of fending off a barrage of attacks on their characters, Republican presidential contenders Ben Carson and Marco Rubio have started to fight back against their party rivals and the news media.

Mr. Carson took the most aggressive stance Sunday, blasting news outlets for what he described as unfairly targeting him with unsubstantiated accusations that he lied about events in his inspirational life story.

The retired pediatric neurosurgeon said he had no choice but to go on offensive.

“I simply cannot sit still and watch unfairness. I’m always going to call it out,” Mr. Carson told CNN while on the campaign trail in Puerto Rico.

He said a report by Politico that he fabricated a story about being offered a scholarship to West Point — a report that the Carson campaign disputed — was “obviously a hit job.”

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point does not offer scholarships, and Mr. Carson never applied to the military university, but he insisted that as a top ROTC student he was offered an appointment, which amounts to a full scholarship.

PHOTOS: Ben Carson, Marco Rubio fight back against media, Republican rivals

In a separate interview aired on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Mr. Carson said the scrutiny he is receiving has gone far beyond what other candidates have been subjected to.

Mr. Carson said the news media’s treatment of him was “not even close” to that of President Obama, including questions about Mr. Obama’s birth certificate and whether he was eligible for the presidency as a natural-born U.S. citizen.

He said he was being targeted “because I’m a threat to the progressives [and] the secular progress movement in this country. I’m a very big threat. They can look at the polling data, and they can see that I’m the candidate most likely to beat Hillary Clinton.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Rubio released reams of credit card statements to answer accusations that he mismanaged his personal finances and misused a Florida Republican Party credit card when he was speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.

The statements from 2005 and 2006 showed that Mr. Rubio used the party’s American Express card to pay for a portion of a trip to Las Vegas, auto repairs, tiling and charges at a children’s sports activity center. But Mr. Rubio paid the credit card bills.

Out of 484 charges that totaled $64,777, eight were for personal expenses that totaled $7,243.

The Rubio campaign said the disclosure showed that the attacks were a “nothingburger.”

The West Point story was one of several reports by news outlets that challenged accounts in Mr. Carson’s autobiography, “Gifted Hands,” which chronicled his rise from severe poverty in a Detroit ghetto to become an acclaimed neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

A report in The Wall Street Journal raised doubts about Mr. Carson’s account of standing out as “the most honest student” in a psychology course at Yale University. A report by CNN questioned his claims of having a violent temper as a youth and having protected white students during 1968 race riots.

Mr. Carson said his campaign easily found evidence to support his story about Yale, and he questioned why a major newspaper failed to do the same. He said his campaign would soon release the information.

He faulted the CNN report for being based on its failure to find eyewitnesses to events that occurred more than 40 years ago.

“There’s no question I’m getting special scrutiny, because there are lot of people who are very threatened, and then they have seen the recent head-to-head polling against Hillary and how well I do. And they are worried,” Mr. Carson said on the CBS program “Face the Nation.”

“There is no question about it,” he said. “The whole point is to distract, distract the populace, distract me.”

Trump’s take

As they have risen in the polls and established themselves as top contenders in the race, Mr. Carson and Mr. Rubio increasingly have become focuses of investigative reporters and for Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump.

Mr. Carson has been running a close second to Mr. Trump in recent polls, while Mr. Rubio vies with Ted Cruz for third place.

The standings in the polls will place Mr. Trump and Mr. Carson at center stage for the Republican debate Tuesday in Milwaukee. They will be flanked by Mr. Cruz, Mr. Rubio and four other contenders for the prime-time debate. Six other Republican candidates will face off at an earlier debate for those with the lowest poll numbers.

Mr. Carson and Mr. Rubio also fired back at Mr. Trump, who has been quick to use news reports to criticize and discredit his rivals.

Mr. Trump recently said Mr. Rubio was “a disaster with his credit cards.”

“He has a very bad record of finances, with his houses, he certainly lives above his means, there is no question about that,” the real estate mogul said.

Mr. Rubio responded: “I find it ironic that the only person running for president that has ever declared bankruptcy — four times in the last 25 years — is attacking anyone on finances.”

Confronted with Mr. Rubio’s statement on “Meet the Press,” Mr. Trump said he declared bankruptcy for his corporations, taking advantage of U.S. laws to succeed in business.

“All of those deals, in a sense, they worked out, and worked out in some cases really, really well. But I used the laws of the land, no different than many of the names that you talk about all the time,” the billionaire businessman said, adding that he hopes the “credit card thing” works out for Mr. Rubio.

“If he gave the information, it will be easy, probably very easy, to see whether or not anything was done wrong,” Mr. Trump said. “And, frankly, I hope nothing was done that was wrong, because that would be really terrible — to be disqualified for that.”

Mr. Carson said Mr. Trump’s rush to join in the attacks raises doubts about whether he has the temperament to be commander in chief.

Mr. Trump last week tweeted that the reports exposed “one of many lies” by Mr. Carson and called it the “beginning of the end” of the Carson campaign.

“It’s been proven that it wasn’t a lie. And none of the things are lies,” Mr. Carson said on ABC’s “This Week.” “What does it say about people who immediately jump on the bandwagon when they hear something bad rather than waiting and finding out what the truth is?

“Let me put it this way,” Mr. Carson said. “I would not be anxious to have a commander in chief who acted that way.”

Mr. Trump, who followed Mr. Carson on the show, said the stories of violence in Mr. Carson’s childhood were disturbing whether true or fabricated.

“Look, I hope it all works out for him. It’s a strange situation, though, when you talk about hitting your mother in the head with a hammer and hitting your friend in the face with a padlock, when you talk about stabbing somebody but the [belt buckle] saved them,” Mr. Trump said.

In his book and speeches, Mr. Carson has told about how he overcame a violent temper and became a successful student and doctor.

“It’s a weird deal going on,” said Mr. Trump. “And I hope it all works out because I don’t want to see Ben have problems over this stuff and, you know, it is a very strange situation.”

Mr. Trump also took a jab at Mr. Carson for describing his violent temper as a “pathology” in the book, which Mr. Carson co-wrote.

“He said he had pathological disease. When you have pathological disease, that is a very serious problem. That’s not something that is cured,” Mr. Trump said. “That is something that you have to live with. And that is a very serious thing to have to live with.”

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