It all looked terrible. Politico‘s Kyle Cheney seemed to have caught Ben Carson lying about “his application and acceptance into the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.” And, worse, Carson’s campaign “admitted” it.
Unlike other media hits against Carson, this one seemed real.
The admission sold the story–and the military angle, reeking of “stolen valor,” was an anchor guaranteed to sink Carson. From hero to zero–sad, but apparently real.
The other element was that Donald Trump seized on the Politico article, and amplified it.
The day before, Trump had blasted Politico on Breitbart News Daily as “some of the most dishonest people I have ever dealt with.”
But on Friday, Trump gave credence to the Politico article by linking it to “lies”–which resonated, because others have raised doubts about apparent inaccuracies in Carson’s memory–for example, about an attempted stabbing incident.
And then Politico’s story began to unravel.
Carson’s campaign did not admit he lied about “his application and acceptance” into West Point. And Carson never claimed he applied or was accepted in his book Gifted Hands, which Politico cited.
At worst, what Carson did was exaggerate, turning an invitation to apply to West Point, presumably with financial assistance, into an offer of a “full scholarship.” That is puffery–not fabrication.
A sense of perspective is in order.
We are dealing with a presidential campaign in which the likely Democratic nominee has fabricated key details of her life over and over again–from the “Tuzla dash,” to the source of her name, to the rogue email server she set up in her bathroom.
When she lied to the House Select Committee on Benghazi, the media applauded her for her performance. Carson’s West Point story doesn’t even come close.
Moreover, we have a president currently in office who lied about the death of his own mother on the campaign trail and when he was forcing Obamacare down the nation’s throat. He lied about his ties to former terrorist Bill Ayers–just “a guy who lives in my neighborhood”–and then continued to lie, telling the media he had never had contact with Ayers since arriving in D.C. (Breitbart News busted that lie in 2012: Obama visited Ayers in July 2005.)
Not only that, but Obama fabricated key details of his life in his autobiography, Dreams from My Father, and then either told his literary agent to claim he was born in Kenya, or failed to correct her–for well over a decade–when she advertised him as such. That is the likely origin of the Birther theory, which was picked up by the Clinton camp before being adopted by some conservatives–and it is also far more egregious than Carson’s West Point story.
Many conservatives took Politico at its word at first, not because of the strength of Cheney’s reporting, but because of the “admission” from Carson’s campaign–an admission that wasn’t.
Then we looked closer.
Ben Shapiro noted the discrepancy between what Politico claimed Carson’s campaign said, and what it actually said: “This is a textbook example of a left-wing media hit,” he concluded. Erick Erickson, too, reconsidered. Others soon followed.
Even mainstream reporters like Dave Weigel of the Washington Post, who criticized Carson over the stabbing story, took his side against Politico. Dylan Byers, Politico’s former media reporter, tweeted that the Politico story’s central claims were wrong.
*Not accurate* in Politico story: -Carson claimed to have applied to West Point. -Campaign admitted Carson fabricated history.
— Dylan Byers (@DylanByers) November 6, 2015
Politico’s Carson story meets the Dan Rather standard of “fake but accurate“–that is, a lie validated by a left-wing “larger truth.” This is not the first time we conservatives have fallen for it, but it should be the last.