Ben Carson is taking a lot of heat based on a report that Politico originally ran under the headline, “EXCLUSIVE: Ben Carson admits fabricating West Point scholarship.” It sounds like the Republican presidential candidate was caught in a lie, but the claims merit an investigation. The headline now reads, “Exclusive: Carson claimed West Point ‘scholarship’ but never applied.”
So which one is it? Did he fabricate, as in lie, about West Point? Or did he interpret an informal offer of a scholarship as a certainty. Considering he was a teen when applying to colleges, this is a probability. By senior year in high school, his academic record was stellar. He applied to Yale and was accepted. No doubt he would have easily been admitted to West Point if he had applied, and whoever recruited Carson likely told him this and mentioned a “scholarship.” Technically, the military academy doesn’t offer scholarships. All accepted candidates receive a tuition waiver with all expenses paid. To an inexperienced teen, no tuition and scholarship were, perhaps, synonymous.
An editor’s note has been added to an updated version of the story.
“POLITICO stands by its reporting on this story, which has been updated to reflect Ben Carson’s on the record response.”
The Politico story on Ben Carson and West Point has undergone significant changes. Several updates. No editors note. https://t.co/pJZVrLm0Fh
— T. Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) November 6, 2015
When questioned on whether he received a West Point scholarship, the candidate himself stated, “It’s almost 50 years ago. I bet you don’t remember all the people you talked to 50 years ago… ” The Politico story states that Carson, on several occasions, said he was “offered a full scholarship to West Point.” He indeed stated this in his book, Gifted Hands, and in a recent interview on Charlie Rose.
Carson also clarified his statement Friday saying he wasn’t offered a scholarship to West Point, but was extended an informal offer. He reported his recollection of the events to the New York Times.
“Because I had done so extraordinarily well you know I was told that someone like me — they could get a scholarship to West Point. But I made it clear I was going to pursue a career in medicine. It was, you know, an informal ‘with a record like yours we could easily get you a scholarship to West Point.'”
However, in the Charlie Rose interview, the presidential hopeful said he met General Westmoreland and was offered a “full scholarship” to West Point. Politico states that official U.S. Army records show Westmoreland could not have had dinner with Carson on that specific day—Memorial Day 1969.
“In fact, the general’s records suggest he was in Washington that day and played tennis at 6:45 p.m.”
Per Politico, there was a banquet in Detroit in February of 1969 that Westmoreland attended, and “Carson, a leader of the city’s ROTC program at the time, may have been among the invited guests at the $10-a-plate event.” Politico also wrote that West Point “has no record of Carson applying, much less being extended admission.” However, the school does not keep records of old applications and couldn’t verify if he was offered a slot, because he never attended, a CNN report noted.
— Timothy P Carney (@TPCarney) November 6, 2015
Ben Carson should expect to be vetted just as any other serious presidential contender. But splitting hairs on the technicalities between an informal offer of admissions, tuition waivers, and scholarships should not be a part of the process. Everyone has the right not to share Carson’s or any other candidate’s political views. Many Americans, at this point, haven’t decided who’s worthy of their vote. But calling someone a liar, changing a headline, and then adding a lengthy editor’s note to an article isn’t acceptable, nor is it good journalism. Politico should apologize and offer a retraction instead of trying rationalize its initial claims.
[Image via Sean Rayford/Getty]