Politifact: Carson West Point Explanation ‘Mostly True’

Matt Vespa
Posted: Nov 09, 2015 11:25 AM
Politifact: Carson West Point Explanation ‘Mostly True’

Go back and read Guy and Christine’s posts about this rather bizarre incident regarding Dr. Ben Carson’s West Point story, and how it threw his whole campaign into crisis mode last week. It began when Politico posted a story that said Dr. Carson fabricated his story about receiving a “full scholarship” to the esteemed military academy. The news publication said Carson applied and was accepted to West Point, though that’s not what Carson wrote in his autobiography, Gifted Hands. Guy added that West Point isn’t technically a full-ride either, as you’re required to serve in the military for a period of time. In the end, Politico misfired on this story. They changed the headline, the lede, and further entrenched conservatives’ feelings about bias in the media.

On ABC’s This Week, Dr. Carson told George Stephanopoulos, a former Clinton operative, that the academy uses the term “full scholarship” on their website. That part isn’t necessarily true, but West Point has used that term in their recruitment material in years past. Hence, why the left-leaning Politifact rated Dr. Carson’s explanation to explain this intrigue as “mostly true.”

When asked about discrepancy on ABC’s This Week by host George Stephanopoulos, Carson said the academy itself uses the terminology.

"Wait a minute George, go look on the West Point website, and you’ll see those specific words, ‘full scholarship to West Point,’ "Carson said Nov. 8. "So even though it is, you know, given as a grant for anybody who gets in, those words are used. And if a recruiter or somebody who’s trying to get you to come there or trying to get you to do that, those are the very words they will use. It’s on their website."

We wondered if the words really are advertised on West Point’s website.

We could not reach the military academy. Searching for the "specific words ‘full scholarship to West Point’" turned up no results on West Point’s own website or on Google.

The official admissions page also makes no mention of a scholarship of any kind. Instead, it simply notes that tuition, room and board, and expenses are fully paid for those who are selected to attend West Point.


We did find examples of the words "full scholarship" used in publications that are linked on West Point’s website, as well as some old recruiting advertisements:

• A dataset from 2014: "At the United States Military Academy all students receive a full scholarship, including room & board and medical- and dental-care are provided by the U.S. Army."

• A prospectus from 2012: "As a cadet, you are a member of the U.S. Army and receive a full scholarship and an annual salary of more than $10,000 from which you pay for your uniforms, textbooks, a laptop computer, and incidents."

• An ad in a 1991 issue of Black Enterprise magazine: "Each year about 1,400 young men and women take advantage of the opportunity to attend West Point on a full government scholarship, which includes tuition, room and board and medical care.

• An ad that appeared in a few issues of Ebony magazine in 1990: "You receive a full scholarship, earn a degree from one of the country’s finest colleges, and build a foundation for a challenging career of service to the nation."

On Friday, it was clear that Carson was not happy about this story, and blew up at the media during a press conference. The neurosurgeon aptly noted how this story was dominating the news cycle, while there was virtually zero vetting from the media regarding Obama. At the end of the day, the Carson campaign raised $3.5 million for the week.

Again, a “full scholarship” isn’t the most accurate term, though the institution has used it in past marketing material. You need to apply and receive an appointment; Carson didn’t do the former, so he couldn’t receive the latter. Yes, maybe Carson could have detailed this part of his life with a bit more clarity in his autobiography, but that’s doesn’t mean he’s guilty of outright fabrication. The Rolling Stone’s horrifically bad and utterly false University of Virginia rape story last year is a classic example of fabrication. While Carson was reportedly told he could get an appointment with his grades, he chose to go into medicine–though I agree with many commenting on this story that any high schooler looking at colleges would have taken what West Point was offering as a full scholarship.

This story, and the Marco Rubio FLGOP charge card nothing-burger, isn’t a major scandal. They’re certainly not in the same league as the alleged improprieties surrounding Hillary Clinton, her Foundation, and the possible mishandling of classified information on her private email system that was in violation of the National Archives and Records Administration’s regulations.

Now, that doesn’t mean Carson hasn’t been the subject of controversy, but this one just doesn’t register quite as high on the Richter scale as some on the left had hoped it would turn out to be in the end.