Jim, the longer I look at this Politico story, the more it appears it engaged in its own spin campaign, hyping the story beyond all reason. If a publication is going to accuse a presidential candidate of fabrication, words matter, and Politico’s story is not only deceptive, it absurdly piggybacks on CNN’s malicious and flawed reporting about Ben Carson’s childhood. And, to be clear, while I admire Ben Carson, I don’t view him with rose-colored glasses. For example, I think your reporting on Carson’s relationship with Mannatech has held up quite well under fire.
But let’s get back to Politico. Here is its opening paragraph:
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson on Friday conceded that he never applied nor was granted admission to West Point and attempted to recast his previous claims of a full scholarship to the military academy — despite numerous public and written statements to the contrary over the last few decades.
Well now, that’s a clever bit of wordsmithing, isn’t it? As you point out in your post, Carson never said that he applied. Instead, he said that he was told that he would be accepted and — like everyone at West Point — attend for free. So there’s no real “concession” because there was never a contrary assertion. Then there’s this:
The concession from Carson’s campaign comes as serious questions about other points of fact in Carson’s personal narrative are questioned, including the seminal episode in which he claimed to have attempted to stab a close friend.
This is classic — using one shaky hit piece to bolster another (and there’s that “concession” word again). Yet CNN’s reporting — which consists of talking to ten people who knew Ben Carson decades ago, including one who said they might have heard rumors of the stabbing — is itself suspect. Why should we believe that the people CNN talked to would be in a position to know these details of Carson’s life? Why would we expect Carson to share those embarrassing details before he’d left that life behind? Yes, Carson’s personal narrative is being “questioned,” but it’s a bit of gratuitous editorializing to call that questioning ”serious.”
Politico isn’t done:
Similarly, details have emerged that cast doubt on the nature of Carson’s encounter with one of the most prominent military men of that era.
But when you keep reading, you see that the Pentagon acknowledges that it “certainly is possible” that Westmoreland talked with Carson, but the event Carson describes — a dinner featuring Medal of Honor winners — likely occurred in February and not around Memorial Day. So Carson properly described the event, but — decades later — got the month wrong. That’s a story?
Since I had the privilege of serving with true heroes, I loathe “stolen valor” or any other false claims of military service, but — like you — I simply don’t see Carson’s account in this light. At the risk of repeating a piece that will shortly be posted over at the home page, his story is plausible because I experienced something similar. Many years ago I was “offered” an ROTC scholarship before I even applied. After speaking with officers familiar with my academic record, they told me I would receive a full academic scholarship, that the application was a mere formality. My teenage self certainly took their statements as an “offer,” and I wouldn’t have fill out the application forms without their word. Unlike Carson, however, I filled out the forms and received the formal offer (which I rejected for a better scholarship from a different source.) So, when did I receive my offer? The lawyerly answer is when I received the formal letter. The real-life answer is when a colonel told me the scholarship was mine for the taking.
Interestingly, after once declaring that Carson “fabricated” his story about West Point, Politico has edited that word from its headline, and the word appears nowhere in the current version of its story. But to a great degree, the damage has been done. The media is taking a hammer to a good man’s reputation, and casual observers may soon find themselves believing left-wing lies.