Ben Carson is a serial fabulist. That's the narrative the mainstream media has been exploring over the last week-plus, performing deep dives into whether he lied about having been offered a "full scholarship" to West Point (our analysis is here), whether he tried to stab someone during what he's described as an angry and violent youth, and whether he was duped by an elaborate academic hoax while at Yale. (Yes, all of this is quite bizarre). Politico badly botched its West Point 'fabrication' scoop -- so much so that left-leaning Politifact rated a key cog in Carson's explanation "mostly true" once the dust had finally settled. But questions remained about Carson's recollection that he'd attempted a stabbing as a teen, with skeptics alleging that he'd made up the incident. Thus spawned the mind-bending spectacle of a presidential candidate insisting that yes, he had indeed tried to stab someone. And wouldn't you know it? It looks like he was telling the truth:
Here's Carson's mother in a 1997 profile of the Ben Carson play saying the stabbing incident happened by the way... pic.twitter.com/WifmQsMJlJ— Andrew Kaczynski (@BuzzFeedAndrew) November 9, 2015
BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski also flagged more corroborating evidence on this score, quoting a former colleague who says Carson had privately relayed the same story long before he rose to public prominence. "I absolutely believe it’s true, and there’s really no reason for him to tell a story like that, like I said, before any of this fame came to him,” Carson's fellow doctor told a Baltimore radio station. So "Carson once tried to stab a guy" appears to check out. Up next is Carson's deeply strange story about taking a make-up exam in college after the original test booklets were allegedly destroyed in a fire. Carson said he retook the test in full, even after other students had walked out in protest -- after which it was revealed that the whole thing was a set-up, and Carson was awarded with cash for his honesty. The Wall Street Journal looked into the claim and found not a shred of evidence to back it up. Another crazy Carson tale, opponents sighed. Until...Buzzfeed struck again. Carson got a few minor details wrong, but he didn't invent the incident out of whole cloth:
A former staff member of the Yale Record says that he recalls many of the details of a prank that Dr. Ben Carson wrote about in an autobiography. The incident has been the subject of media coverage in recent days, after the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that it found no evidence to support Carson’s claim that he was a victim of a hoax that led him to take a fake psychology test, as he wrote in his 1990 autobiography, Gifted Hands. In an interview with BuzzFeed News on Monday, Curtis Bakal, an editorial assistant at the satirical Yale Record who says he helped write the fake test, said he was “99% certain the way Carson remembers it is correct.” “When I read about the story in the Wall Street Journal, I immediately said, to my wife and friend, ‘That was the prank we played at the Record! And Ben Carson was in the class,’” said Bakal, who noted he wasn’t actually present during the taking of the fake test. “We did a mock parody of the Yale Daily News during the exam period in January 1970, and in this parody we had a box that said: ‘So-and-so section of the exam has been lost in a fire. Professor so-and-so is going to give a makeup exam.’” “We got a room to do the test in and one of us from the Record impersonated a proctor to give the test,” he said.
And yep, Bakal remembers, a small cash prize was involved. So Carson is more or less three-for-three. As I wrote last week, any candidate for high office should expect intense scrutiny, especially a political novice running a heavily biographical and character-based campaign. That's part of the media's job. Getting the story wrong and missing relevant evidence doesn't lend press outlets much credibility, however, and Carson is exploiting those mistakes to the tune of millions in raised funds. I maintain that the acclaimed pediatric neurosurgeon's false assertion about his role promoting a sketchy company called Mannatech remains a real problem for him, as does the fact that his campaign effectively outsourced much of its rapid response to a handful of reporters at Buzzfeed. A professional, prepared campaign would have vetted its own candidate thoroughly, and would have been prepared with detailed responses to charges like these. Republican voters should seriously weigh the implications of the Carson campaign's hands-off lack of preparedness and failure to anticipate attacks stemming from the seminal written work of their candidate's adult life. Florida-based GOP Rick Wilson penned a column offering some unsolicited advice to Team Carson, the first two bullet points of which pertain to this very point. (1) Recognize that it's a fact of life that the media holds Republicans to a higher standard than Democrats, and (2) be fully prepared for that reality. "You're running for president, not student council," Wilson writes. I'll reiterate: Careening from one controversy to another, and bashing the media while getting bailed out by bloggers may work for awhile in a primary setting -- but it's no way to lay the groundwork for a winning performance against the vaunted, merciless Clinton attack machine. That said, one savvy Carson play has been turning Donald Trump's premature and characteristically acerbic media-abetting pile-on against him:
Carson's cool, cutting retort: “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?… I would not be anxious to have a Commander-in-Chief who acts like that.” Finally, just in case any mainstream journalists happen to be reading this post, I figured I'd do you a favor and nudge you in the direction of major new developments to a serious candidate-vetting story that most of your colleagues have been largely ignoring over the past five days:
Signed form proves HRC was aware of data security rules she violated & that "not marked classified" excuse is bunk: https://t.co/fItjswj4vE— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) November 9, 2015
Hillary received 2011 memo warning of repeated outside efforts to hack State Dept officials' private emails: https://t.co/fItjswj4vE— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) November 9, 2015