Fact Check Politico on Ben Carson Fabrication of West Point Scholarship: Pants on Fire!
On Friday, Politico wrote a piece in which they claimed, “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.” However, a reading of Carson’s book never says that he either applied or was accepted to West Point. In fact, Carson never claims either.
Here’s what Politico reported:
The academy has occupied a central place in Carson’s tale for years. According to a story told in Carson’s book, “Gifted Hands,” the then-17 year old was introduced in 1969 to Gen. William Westmoreland, who had just ended his command of U.S. forces in Vietnam, and the two dined together. That meeting, according to Carson’s telling, was followed by a “full scholarship” to the military academy.
West Point, however, has no record of Carson applying, much less being extended admission.
“In 1969, those who would have completed the entire process would have received their acceptance letters from the Army Adjutant General,” said Theresa Brinkerhoff, a spokeswoman for the academy. She said West Point has no records that indicate Carson even began the application process. “If he chose to pursue (the application process), then we would have records indicating such,” she said.
When presented with these facts, Carson’s campaign conceded the story was false.
“Dr. Carson was the top ROTC student in the City of Detroit,” campaign manager Barry Bennett wrote in an email to POLITICO. “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,” Bennett added. “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.”
Carson’s book Gifted Hands is online for all to read what the doctor actually penned.
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Here’s what he actually wrote:
“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” — his high school ROTC director — “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. As overjoyed as I felt to be offered such a scholarship, I wasn’t really tempted. The scholarship would have obligated me to spend four years in military service after I finished college, precluding my chances to go on to medical school. I knew my direction – I wanted to be a doctor, and nothing would divert me or stand in the way.”
It goes on from there, but clearly he never said he applied nor was accepted. Being offered something does not equate to applying for a scholarship nor being accepted to West Point. Though flattered, he pursued college rather than West Point.
In fact, West Point does not offer scholarships, so checking with West Point would not really bolster one’s case.
Furthermore, Ben Shapiro rightly points out:
Politico followed up on this story. They reported one additional pieces of information that seem 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.
Politico claims, “When presented with this evidence, Carson’s campaign conceded the story was false.”
Did anyone read that in the piece? I sure didn’t.
“That’s nonsense,” wrote Shapiro. “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.”
Politico at least gives the benefit of the doubt concerning Carson’s meeting with Westmoreland, but they are just not being honest about what was written by Carson.
I’ll say that their opening paragraph is a pants-on-fire, multiple Pinocchio fabrication.
The Carson campaign disputes Politico’s unsubstantiated claim he ever claimed to have applied to West Point or been admitted: “He never said he was admitted or even applied.”
“This is what we have come to expect from Politico.”
Here is the full statement Watts provided to TheDCNF:
“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.