Dr. Ben Carson has been the target of recent media attacks led by left-leaning news outlets CNN and Politico, but they may not have had the impact they were hoping. In fact, the Carson campaign is thanking the “biased media” for a big fundraising haul over the last week, which was filled with stories questioning the details of his oft-told personal story.
We the People have made 10,000 donations each day this week, raising $3.5M this week alone. Thank you biased media.
— Ben & Candy Carson (@RealBenCarson) November 7, 2015
Carson, a former children’s neurosurgeon, has made his background story, which is one of personal responsibility and redemption, a centerpiece of his campaign. He enjoys the highest favorability ratings out of any of the potential 2016 presidential candidates on either side of the aisle, something that has made him a target.
“Of course they would like to knee cap Ben Carson,” said Richard Baris, PPD’s senior political analyst and election forecast head. “When we apply the demographic breakdowns in head-to-head polls between Dr. Carson and Mrs. Clinton, particularly in the latest Fox and Quinnipiac surveys, then the Electoral College map turns very red. Forget about Ohio and Florida. If those numbers hold, states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Iowa suddenly look very difficult for Democrats. And they shouldn’t be.”
According to a Politico report, his campaign ‘admitted’ that the former pediatric neurosurgeon had “fabricated” the claim in his autobiography that he’d received a “full scholarship” offer to attend the US Military Academy at West Point as a teenager. Here’s a passage from the now-edited story:
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. 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…When presented with this evidence, Carson’s campaign conceded the story was false.
Except, though Dr. Carson appears to have incorrectly referred to the offer as a scholarship, which the military school does not offer, he never conceded the story was fundamentally false nor did he ever claim he applied, let alone received an admission. In fact, in his book, Carson clearly says he “wasn’t really tempted” by the offer from Gen. Westmoreland. Further, the academy itself describes this benefit as a “full scholarship.”
Kyle Cheney, the author of the Politico hit piece, has since edited the false headline and above quoted lead, however, without a single footnote or editor’s note.
The original headline–“Ben Carson admits fabricating West Point scholarship” with a subhed “Carson’s campaign on Friday conceded that a central point in his inspirational personal story did not occur as he previously described”–now reads, “Exclusive: Carson claimed West Point ‘scholarship’ but never applied.” The cleaned-up story still claims that Carson “conceded that he never applied nor was granted admission to West Point,” which is patently false.
Cheney and Politico were either condemned or slammed by critics across the political and media spectrum, which can be read here, here, here, here, here, and here. The aforementioned aggregation of criticisms was originally compiled by Molly Hemingway in The Federalist, which was perhaps the most thorough condemnation of the left-leaning Beltway news site.
Considering the widespread pushback, the Carson campaign believes they have weathered the story and avoided serious damage, a conclusion Baris says he isn’t ready to draw.
“Even if Dr. Carson has emerged from what has easily been his most difficult week relatively unscathed it has underscored why he scores as low as he does as far as candidate strength on the PPD Election Projection Model,” Baris said. “Coupled with his tendency to get himself into self-created controversies, his campaign hasn’t exactly demonstrated competency during crisis, and that’s a problem.”
Carson’s campaign has also made some rather strange moves during times that have been relatively favorable, politically speaking. Coming off a strong debate performance last month, the candidate seemed to put his campaign on pause to sign and sell books, as if he wasn’t running for president. There could come a point when Republican primary voters conclude there is too much smoke for there not to be fire.
“Blaming the media in a Republican primary may get you $4 million and a reputation as a fighter,” Baris added. “But in a general election it looks like plain old whining.”