On Friday, Politico ran a stunning headline about soaring 2016 Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson: “Ben Carson admits fabricating West Point scholarship.” That audacious claim was expounded in the first sentence of the piece: “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 piece went on to relate a story from Carson’s 1992 bestseller Gifted Hands:
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.
Politico then revealed that Carson had not applied to West Point, and had not been admitted to West Point. The author, Kyle Cheney, then concluded, “When presented with these facts, Carson’s campaign conceded the story was false.”
Actually, as it turns out, Politico’s story was false.
First off, Carson’s story wasn’t false. Here is Carson’s recollection of events from Gifted Hands:
At the end of my twelfth grade I marched at the head of the Memorial Day parade. 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 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.
Carson retold this account last month on Charlie Rose:
I was offered a full scholarship at West Point, got to meet General Westmoreland and go to Congressional Medal of Honor dinners. But decided really my pathway would be medicine.
At no point, however, did Carson say he applied to West Point in the first place. In fact, in Gifted Hands itself, Carson writes, “An ironic situation faced me in the fall of 1968, for most of the top colleges in the country had contacted me with offers and enducements [sic]. However, each college required a ten-dollar non-returnable entrance fee sent with the application. I had exactly ten dollars, so I could apply only to one.” As Dr. Carson wrote on Facebook in August, as Dave Weigel of The Washington Post reports, that one school was Yale.
In other words, Carson never lied about applying to West Point. But did he lie about receiving a full scholarship offer? No, he didn’t. That’s because West Point doesn’t offer “full scholarships” in the technical sense: tuition is covered so long as you commit to military service afterward. What happened, according to Carson, was simple: allies of West Point attempted to recruit Carson, and told him tuition would be covered. Carson naturally assumed, without checking, that this meant a “full scholarship,” as it would at virtually any other college.
Speaking of which, West Point often calls its full tuition coverage a “scholarship” on its marketing materials:
— Gabriel Malor (@gabrielmalor) November 6, 2015
And that’s what Carson’s team claimed to Politico when asked:
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.
Which leads to Politico’s second big lie: that Carson’s campaign “admits fabricating” the story. No, they didn’t, because the story wasn’t fabricated in the first place.
Carson has now responded directly to The New York Times:
I don’t remember all the specific details. 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.’
Politico went for a hit and came up short. In the end, they stepped on a rake. Carson, whose campaign is largely built around bashing the media as biased attack machines for the left, will emerge not only unscathed, but stronger.
Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News, Editor-in-Chief of DailyWire.com, and The New York Times bestselling author, most recently, of the book, The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against The Obama Administration (Threshold Editions, June 10, 2014). Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.