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Ben Carson: Politico “blatantly lied” about West Point story

Ben Carson: Politico “blatantly lied” about West Point story

Politico set out to damage Ben Carson’s credibility, but ended up damaging its own.

I first heard about this story in the car listening to Rush Limbaugh. It sounded bad.

Politico was reporting that a supposedly central part of Dr. Ben Carson’s personal narrative was fabricated, EXCLUSIVE: Ben Carson admits fabricating West Point Scholarship [link to Wayback Machine preserved version since edits made by Politico later on].

The issue was whether Carson had lied about applying for and being granted admission to West Point on a scholarship (emphasis added):

Ben Carson’s campaign on Friday admitted, in a response to an inquiry from POLITICO, that a central point in his inspirational personal story was fabricated: his application and acceptance into the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

I don’t know how central it was to his narrative – I had never heard about it, but then again, I don’t follow Carson that closely.

Here was the passage in question from Carson’s autobiography:

At the end of my twelfth grade I marched at the head of the Memorial Day parade. I felt so proud, my chest bursting with ribbons and braids of every kind. To make it more wonderful, We had important visitors that day. Two soldiers who had won the Congressional Medal of Honor in Viet Nam were present. More exciting to me, General William Westmoreland (very prominent in the Viet Nam war) attended with an impressive entourage. Afterward, Sgt. Hunt introduced me to General Westmoreland, and I had dinner with him and the Congressional Medal winners. Later I was offered a full scholarship to West Point. I didn’t refuse the scholarship outright, but I let them know that a military career wasn’t where I saw myself going.

Here was the original lead banner on Politico’s homepage:

Here was the original article banner and headline:

There was complete celebration not just in the liberal media, but in many parts of the conservative media by people who didn’t like Carson’s candidacy to begin with, even if they liked him personally. There was a piling on by some in the conservative media just like after the false allegation in 2011 that Sarah Palin’s electoral map was connected to the Gabby Giffords shooting. (More on that in a later post.)

Donald Trump immediately jumped on it to bash Carson on Twitter.

Jeb Bush refused to bash Carson.

But in the hours after the publication, some conservative writers started to dig into the facts. Ben Shapiro, who explicitly stated that he didn’t support Carson, wrote an excellent post debunking the Politico article, No, Ben Carson Didn’t Lie About West Point. It’s Another Media Hit Job.:

Politico followed up on this story. They reported one additional piece of information that seems to conflict with Carson’s story: Carson never applied to West Point, and was never extended admission.

But Carson never said he applied. He said he was extended a full scholarship offer. What’s more, West Point doesn’t offer scholarships: all admission is free contingent on serving in the military afterwards. It thus seems probable that Westmoreland or another military figure tried to recruit Carson, telling him that he wouldn’t have to pay for his education – and that Carson read that as a “full scholarship,” and never applied.

In fact, that’s exactly what Carson’s campaign manager said to Politico in an email:

Dr. Carson was the top ROTC student in the City of Detroit. 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.

But here’s how Politico editorialized: “When presented with this evidence, Carson’s campaign conceded the story was false.”

That’s nonsense. They did no such thing. They provided details that corroborated Carson’s story and explained his loose use of the language. If someone told you that you could go to college for free, you might reasonably conclude that you had been offered a full scholarship to attend that university. But Politico would call you a liar if you used such language to describe the exchange.

Others also did good work on this, including Gabriel Malor at Ace of Spades HQ, Politico’s Hit on Carson

1) The headline is misleading. The Carson campaign statement does not admit he fabricated anything….

(2) The lede is outright false. Politico’s Kyle D. Cheney starts with this claim: “Ben Carson’s campaign on Friday admitted, in a response to an inquiry from POLITICO, 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 no where in the piece does Cheney tell the reader where Carson made this “application and acceptance” claim.

(3) It is, of course, very easy to show that Carson never applied to or was accepted to West Point, if in fact he never applied. Thus, the entire piece hinges on this missing piece of information: where and when did Carson say that he applied to and was accepted to Westpoint?

(4) There is a lot of evidence that Carson never made that claim. Particularly, because in both his book and his speeches, he talks about whittling his options down to Harvard and Yale, and in the end deciding to apply only to Yale, where he was accepted.

(5) Carson’s book does have a single line: “Later I was offered a full scholarship to West Point.” This isn’t quite wrong either. Nobody gets scholarships per se to West Point; as a service academy, repayment is the term of service after graduation. But that’s exactly Carson’s point when he says he didn’t take up the West Point opportunity because he didn’t want the service commitment to delay his medical career.

Dave Weigel from Washington Post, and others did yeoman’s work exposing the misleading nature of Politico’s story:

Even some mainstream media accounts had to admit Politico botched the story:

Politico then changed its headline and story line:

Here’s how the homepage banner looked after the title change:

Politico Ben Carson West Point Homepage version 2

Here’s how the article page banner looked after the title change:

Politico Ben Carson West Point Article version 2

Late this afternoon Carson explained his side of the story on the Sean Hannity radio show:

I will continue to add to this post as more analysis comes in, but there is a bigger issue here.

This is not about Ben Carson, just like it was not about Sarah Palin when she was falsely accused of causing the Gabby Giffords shooting. You can dislike either or both of them, and still be disgusted by the way they are treated by the press.

I’ll have more on that in a later post, probably Sunday.

Does Politico care? I doubt it. They did the damage they intended to do.

UPDATE: Scott Baker, the Editor-in-Chief of The Blaze, has a West Point Story almost identical to Ben Carson’s:


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It’s a vile, stinking double lie; they lied when they said the scholarship offer was untrue and they lied when they said that his campaign had fessed up to the first supposed lie.

Of course the progs will cling to the first lie and claim there is no proof, which of course there isn’t because the General is dead. But given Carson’s eventual accomplishments, and where he was at his life when he says Westmoreland made the offer, I personally don’t doubt Carson’s veracity. Why would any reasonable person?

    Check the LI reader comments on another post here at LI about this morning’s attack on Carson and the push back against it *before* Rush’s program and during it:

    Estragon in reply to Paul. | November 7, 2015 at 4:22 am

    The FACT is anyone who pays any attention to Politico is an idiot or a leftist hack.

    Every single founder and principal editor/writer for Politico was a charter member of Ezra Klein’s “Journolist” email cabal to “manage” the news and ensure the facts didn’t hurt Obama specifically and Democrats in general. As Klein has admitted, it never really went away, and even today you will see the exact same wording and phrases used in reports from a wide variety of sources on “breaking” stories. It’s no coincidence. The fix in in, and Politico has been in on the propaganda effort from the beginning.

    – –

    If that’s not enough: Trump may or may not be right that they are losing money, but it is well known on Capitol Hill that they couldn’t meet payroll without the six-figure subscriptions to their daily email service – a sort of Drudge with more detail & the conspiracy crap filtered out – from the White House and several other Administration agencies, who each pay separately. And we wonder why the coverage is so favorable?

    Propagandists do sometimes report true items for cover, but believing them on any given story, especially one that fits the leftist narrative well, is a fool’s errand.

    Lee Jan in reply to Paul. | November 7, 2015 at 7:42 am

    No difference at all between Politico and Rolling Stone.
    Keep that in mind before wasting a nanosecond of your time reading or reacting to anything from either source.

“The Damage Has Been Done”. Yeah, to Politico.

    You misunderstand “The damage has been done” here. Politico by running this hit piece will see it repeated hundreds and hundreds of times by various MSM echos, reaching tens of millions of readers. The leftists of newsrooms across the nation will sing their praises, declaring the story is spun of pure gold, and repeat it like a forest full of parrots. They will be *stars* among journalists, much like Dan Rather and his hit piece on President Bush.

    Meanwhile, the truth is getting its boots on.

      MaggotAtBroadAndWall in reply to georgfelis. | November 6, 2015 at 6:55 pm

      It’s international news. Agence-France had a story about it. And if they did, I’m guessing The Telegraph and The Guardian do too, but I haven’t checked.

    Helen in reply to snopercod. | November 6, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    Maybe the damage will be done to Trump who jumped on the bandwagon before all the facts were apparently examined. He should apologize to Ben Carson for his childish, ‘Obama-like’, tweet. At least Jeb Bush had the chops to not swallow something from the media hook, line and sinker. Trump, what a schmuck!

      jlronning in reply to Helen. | November 6, 2015 at 8:38 pm

      My thoughts exactly – was listening to Mark Levin tonight, who promised to get on the case of any GOP candidate who tried to take advantage of this politico garbage. Also had some quotes from US Army advertisements promising “FULL SCHOLARSHIPS” to those who are accepted (it’s not correct to say they don’t give scholarships – everyone who is accepted gets a full scholarship and that’s how the Army markets it).

        ThomasD in reply to jlronning. | November 6, 2015 at 9:58 pm

        I applied for acceptance to the US Naval Academy in 1983 and ‘full scholarship’ was the exact wording they used to describe the tuition arrangement. They even went further to note that it also included room, board, uniform allowance, and stipend.

          gasper in reply to ThomasD. | November 7, 2015 at 5:18 pm

          My physical therapist’s son was appointed to West Point this year and those were the exact words she used: ” He receives a full scholarship”. I think most people view a fully paid education as a full scholarship regardless of other terminology used.

          ThomasD in reply to ThomasD. | November 8, 2015 at 9:01 pm

          And it would appear they are still using the same verbiage.

          ” This means ALL students who attend the Naval Academy do so on a full scholarship in return for 5 years of active duty service upon graduation.”

          Journalism, how does that work again?

      jlronning in reply to Helen. | November 6, 2015 at 8:57 pm

      Just reminded of the fact that Trump just said a couple days ago he doesn’t deal with Politico anymore because they are so dishonest – no excuse for his piling on here – what an ugly opportunist!

      DaMav in reply to Helen. | November 6, 2015 at 10:44 pm

      I agree completely. A bad move by Trump.

      But all of this is obscuring a much bigger issue — does Carson actually support the TPP?

I understand this situation, because I lived it.

I was offered a full scholarship to UTEP for graduate studies. I met a person for UTEP, who told me I could get that. I did not apply, because I wanted to get a job after graduation, and I did not want to move to El Paso.

Typical Politico.

It’s a lie, and a dirty one at that, but I think it could still end up hurting him at the polls. All anyone is going to see is the Politico headline that the MSM has been running. How much will it hurt him? Well who knows, really.

I’ve got some more thoughts here:

They were chatting about this at work today. I was too involved in what I was doing to catch the beginning of the conversation and thus who they were talking about, but the delight tipped me off that it must have been an unbellyfeeling oldthinker.

None of them will ever read this or Shapiro’s piece of their own volition.

They will remember and remember enjoying the feeling of ego-confirmation the original headline, memoryholed or not, was crafted to produce and appeal to; the feeling of being particularly clever.

They aren’t bad people, really. They are confused. Keeping them confused is the whole the point.

The deceptive mentality projects deceptive mentalities onto others; this is how it avoids detection from its own followers. Anyone who tells the truth must be a liar.

Midwest Rhino | November 6, 2015 at 6:43 pm

They lie the way leftists like Obama and the Clintons lie, using weasel words to go back and claim the lie was not (quite) a lie. Obama says he used the word “terrorism” in his briefing, even though the whole of their Benghazi messaging was about that video (and that darned American free speech problem).

Politico claims Carson made up the story about being accepted, then their correction leaves that hanging by saying he ADMITTED he was not offered aid. In reversing themselves they leave it hanging as if their original was correct, as if they got Carson to ADMIT they caught him in a lie. They only caught him admitting what he said in the book, where Politico fabricated the lie that never was.

Levin points out that West Point used the word “scholarship” in some ads. But that is advertising. It is not quite accurate to say it is a scholarship when a four (6?) year commitment is the real price. But it is not some big lie either, and it was clarified by Carson at the time, saying he didn’t want to pursue the military, which was the price of time served. It is only misleading to those that don’t understand the cost of West Point “scholarships”.

Politico plays the news cycle with their lies, doesn’t mention they (partly) corrected the story, and leaves it hanging as if the original story is still true, as if Carson had said he was admitted.

And for Politico readers, that is all they may ever know … but those people are a lost cause anyway. It exposes Politico as dishonest leftists, and helps Carson a little in giving exposure to his early years and that connection to the military.

Bottom line, from what I’ve read, Carson technically wasn’t offered a full scholarship. Basically: the end.

From this he’s been painted as a liar and a fraud. However, that’s not to say that the story didn’t have an inherent embellishment. Not much of one, in the big scheme of things, but it was there.

I understand how people are eager to beat up on The Politico – after all, it is The Politico. However, I hesitate to use that as a reason to latch fully onto the Carson campaign. Clearly The Politico overreached and turned a molehill into Mount Doom. But that doesn’t mean it’s safe to presume blindly that Carson is accurate and wise in all matters.

Politico caught red handed landing under fire in Bosnia, trailing a cloud of BS.

Anything to bring down a black conservative. Anything.

Does this mean that I’m not going to be able to keep my health insurance if I like it?

It seems that Carson is at most guilty of a slight exaggeration in this small part of his resume/history. Nothing the sort of Clinton stating she was landing under enemy fire at an airport and running and ducking for safety.

It should have no bad effect on him or his qualifications to be President. Whether it does have a bad effect on him is another question.

Much more important than this bit of BS by Politico is the following which if true truly does disqualify Carson from being considered for the Presidency in my opinion. Same for Rubio.

Apparently Carson and Rubio both back Obama’s/GOPe sellout of our jobs and Sovereignty TPP trade deal. That is enough for Carson to NEVER get my vote if he is the nominee. If Carson doesn’t know enough to oppose this trade deal along with Trump and Jeff Sessions then he doesn’t know enough to be President. Plain and simple.

    If that is factual… if, a confirmed if, then that is a serious problem for Carson.

    I say ‘a confirmed if,’ because WSJ is RINO Print Media.

    Checking Google with a filter for only the last 24 hours, it appears the root of this Carson TTP story comes from a single location: The Wall Street Journal

    The rest, with the exception of The Gateway Pundit, are liberal sites. Gateway Pundit questions it as I question it.
    It’s senseless for Carson to knowingly do that.

    That WSJ hit piece is now 6 hours old.

    Where is the Liberal Media on this? Or FOX News?

    Couldn’t agree more. Anyone supporting the TPP should be crossed off the list.

    Estragon in reply to Gary Britt. | November 7, 2015 at 4:30 am

    As a big free trade supporter, I can say NO ONE should support OR oppose TPP based only on what is so far made public. It’s the longest treaty ever and Congress plans on taking time to study and evaluate all the provisions – and so should anyone else before taking a position.

    The fact is that all prior free trade agreements since the original GATT process beginning in 1947 have lop-sidedly favored the US. The reason is that we already have the freest markets and the fewest barriers to entry, and always have. So getting other countries to lower their own barriers to our products and services is invariably a net gain.

    – –

    That doesn’t mean every single sector in the US “wins” every time free trade expands. Protected, artificially inflated union wages, for example, are often hit. But the net is what counts.

      Barry in reply to Estragon. | November 7, 2015 at 4:09 pm

      “I can say NO ONE should support OR oppose TPP based only on what is so far made public.”

      I’d say the odds are a million to one that you will support it.

      I can say without any reservation at all that ANY treaty negotiated by the clown in the WH is anti-American. I do not support it. It is one of a few litmus tests I have for any R candidate. Support for this monstrosity is a deal breaker.

    Milhouse in reply to Gary Britt. | November 8, 2015 at 1:52 am

    There is no room for protectionism in the Republican tent. If you don’t believe in free trade then get the **** out of here and go support Democrats. You are not wanted.

      Barry in reply to Milhouse. | November 8, 2015 at 12:37 pm

      “If you don’t believe in free trade then get the **** out of here and go support Democrats.”

      If you think what we have now is “free trade”, you are an idiot. If you think Obama is going to create an 8 million page agreement that promotes free trade or any American interests you are a fool.

        Milhouse in reply to Barry. | November 8, 2015 at 2:39 pm

        It doesn’t matter what the document says, Gary Britt’s argument is blatantly protectionist, so he doesn’t belong here.

        As for TPP, judge it by what it says, not by who was president when it was negotiated. The career staff who do the work on these treaties do tend to be free traders, so what they come up with does usually make trade freer than it was.

          Barry in reply to Milhouse. | November 8, 2015 at 5:34 pm

          Like I said, it’s a treaty proposed and created by the Obama administration. That is enough to make it more than just highly suspect. I would treat it like toilet paper.

          I wasn’t aware LI was a gentry republican only website.

          As for your assertion that the “career staff” have free trade in their hearts, that is laughable. The bureaucrats that created this monstrosity do not have the interests of the Average American in mind at all, their only interest is picking what is best for their pockets.

I agree with Jeb.

Remember when the media template was that any criticism of a black presidential candidate or any skepticism about his personal narrative was ipso facto “racist”?

David R. Graham | November 6, 2015 at 10:58 pm

There is no “scholarship” to West Point. There is no one in heaven or on earth of any rank who can offer someone a Cadetship at West Point before said someone undergoes an extremely rigorous and competitive qualification and selection process. A child of an MOH Winner is automatically admitted if they are qualified academically, physically and in leadership. That is the closest there is to a “go to the head of the line” for West Point admissions.

A seventeen-year-old may have thought that a GO or a SecDef encouraging them to go to West Point meant they were in if they wanted it. And they may have thought what they thought they were told meant a full-ride “scholarship.”

But an adult autobiographer or POTUS candidate has no excuse for thinking and writing like a seventeen-year-old. They are expected, especially a POTUS candidate, to know facts. It’s that adult’s word “scholarship” in re a place that has no “scholarships” that self-exposed Dr. Carson.

He done himself in. Of course the media are going to hit him with it. That should surprise no one. He handed the media the noose they used to hang him.

Dr. Carson has tried to pad his resume with a connection to West Point he never had and, by the evidence before us, even when dishonestly but expectedly spun by Dem-Rep-Lib loudmouths, does not deserve. An adult does not trifle in regard to West Point.

Dr. Carson’s campaign is broken. Carly Fiorina’s campaign is broken because she equivocated Christian, Jewish and Moslem “spirituality.”

Moreover, Seventh Day Adventism is millenarian, also vegetarian, although that’s fine with me. I do not eat pigs.

Millenarianism, regardless of its flavor, and there are many, sees nations and their interests as passing ephemera during a period, hopefully brief, of waiting for God’s Advent, Arrival.

This makes Dr. Carson a globalist right in with the Dem-Rep-Lib Global “Ruling Class.” (Explains why he was a Democrat until recently. Democrats are anti-and post-Americans. Republicans and Libertarians justly to avoid talking about their identical sympathies.)

Dr. Carson supports TPP, unsurprisingly. He is friends with Louie Farrakhan, another millenarian globalist. It explains his money tree. He is not an American patriot. He is a post-national self-promoting name-dropper (West Point, yet!), v2 of the one in place now.

The USA need a second political party.

    Yeah. I’m going to call bull-crap! on most of your statement.

    A GO or a SecDef might not be able to “offer” a Cadetship to West Point, but they’re going to have both a better understanding than the average individual of the qualifications and process, and probably at least a little bit of ‘influence’ to the process.

    If you have any brain at all, you’re going to recognize that the West Point admissions committee is going to think long and hard before they refuse to admit an otherwise qualified individual that is being sent by a VERY high ranking General or that comes hat-in-hand with a letter from the Secretary of Defense. Those are the kind of individuals that you refuse at your peril of being dismissed from the admissions committee for pissing off someone with a LOT more horsepower than those committee members are going to have.

    As for Carson having millennialist leanings: So what?

    You do get points for creativity for tying Carson to Louie Farrakhan and making a passing swipe of comparing “teh Won” to Carson, even though Carson is an intellectual giant compared to President Zero. Good attempted use of Alinsky ridicule, even if it falls flat to anybody with more than half a brain.

    “There is no “scholarship” to West Point.”

    Wrong, WP describes it as a “scholarship”.

    “That is the closest there is to a “go to the head of the line” for West Point admissions.”

    Your naive if you believe this. I know the process as it is similar to the Naval Academy. It is certainly rigorous and competitive, as you describe, with a clear path for the nomination process. It helps to be connected…

    Is his story true? I find it believable in the sense that he was told he should apply and he would be a shoe-in. That is basically what he has said in an inartful way.

    NC Mountain Girl in reply to David R. Graham. | November 7, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    Why not cut the bovine excrement and save the bandwidth and sinply declare you are against relegion in general and Christians in particular. After all, your definition of millenarianism, includes not only all believers in a second coming but all those who think there is more to life than material things.

Paul In Sweden | November 7, 2015 at 3:16 am

William A. Jacobson, “General William Westmoreland (very prominent in the Viet Nam war) attended with an impressive entourage.” I chuckled when I read the parenthesis. I wondered was this done because some readers may be unfamiliar or because of the unfair media bashing General Westmoreland took after the war.

    I suspect that it is more that individuals are unfamiliar with Gen. Westmoreland.

    For example, Viet Nam ended in April of 1975. I wasn’t BORN until 1979.

    I recognized the General’s name and the period, but I needed to look him up to actually remember what it was that he did that was important.

    I got to grow up with a LOT of stories from the war, because my family business had a large contingent of Nam military veterans and a large contingent of refugees from Nam who worked for us for decades (they were GREAT machinists), and a lot of them brought their families and/or trained their children in the manufacturing art of machining to come and work for my family manufacturing plant, because the work was steady and the pay was good.

    Anyway, I suspect that the majority of readers are not familiar with General Westmoreland due to their age more than anything else.

    Char Char Binks in reply to Paul In Sweden. | November 8, 2015 at 11:29 am

    It’s a direct quote from Dr. Carson’s book. He wrote it for a general audience that may not be up on history. Westmoreland was a household name during the Vietnam War, but that was a long time ago.

holdingmynose | November 7, 2015 at 6:25 am

Carsono delenda est!

Today the San Diego Union-Tribune is running the New York Times News Service hit piece under the title “Carson recants West Point Claims.”

He did not recant anything, nor did he say anything in an inaccurate manner. As i said above, I read the original. The New York Times, Politico and CNN are FOS.

At what point can you sue these bastards for libel and slander?

    Effectively never.

    NYT v. Sullivan established the “actual malice” standard in reporting, which creates a ridiculously high burden of proof on the plaintiff in suing a news organization. Unless you’ve got a whistle-blower, the burden of proof is so high that no Jury or Judge will ever say it is met, and if for some reason they do, an appeals court will find it to have been reversable error or a finding without basis in law or fact sufficient to grant a mandamus judgment non obstante veredicto (Judgment not withstanding the verdict).

    The Media organization would have to KNOW that the information was false, or act in reckless disregard to the information’s truth or falsity, and Carson DEFINITELY qualifies as a “public figure.” Justapose this with the poor sap who was accused of raping “mattress girl” and was hosed in the press, and when he sued the Judge labeled him a “public figure” even though he had never been convicted, never sought the spotlight and was trying to keep a low profile.

Char Char Binks | November 8, 2015 at 11:20 am

There’s nothing wrong with calling a West Point appointment a scholarship. It definitely qualifies under definition number two. It may not generally be called a scholarship because it requires conditions, but so do all scholarships. An academic scholarship requires a student to follow the rules and maintain his grades, a sports scholarship requires those things AND successful participation at a high level in a sport, so they are in that sense, no more “free” than a military academy appointment.


a grant or payment made to support a student’s education, awarded on the basis of academic or other achievement.

From Tom Maguire:

Congresswoman Lois Capps of CA actually makes these nominations to the military academies. And how does she describe them?

“The full four-year scholarship is valued at more than $350,000 which includes tuition, room and board, medical and dental care and a monthly salary.”