Ben Carson hits out at journalists for questioning details of his life story

Front-runner in race for Republican presidential nomination accuses media of making 'desperate' attempts to 'tarnish' him

Tim Walker
Los Angeles
Saturday 07 November 2015 22:22 GMT
Republican candidate Ben Carson said that respected advocacy center has links to terrorism
Republican candidate Ben Carson said that respected advocacy center has links to terrorism (Getty)

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Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon who now finds himself the front-runner in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, has lashed out at the US media for having questioned several details of his stirring life story.

Dr Carson, known for his mellow, softly spoken debate persona, showed a more energetic side at a press conference on Friday, where he accused the media of making “desperate” attempts to “tarnish” him. “They have been talking to everybody I’ve ever known, everybody I’ve ever seen,” he told reporters. “Next week, it will be my kindergarten teacher who said I peed in my pants. It’s ridiculous.”

The 64-year-old Seventh-Day Adventist has risen to the top of the polls thanks, in part, to the inspiring personal story he has shared in several memoirs, notably the 1990 bestseller Gifted Hands. In that book, he describes a violent, impoverished youth in Detroit, and how his religious faith helped him to become a renowned brain surgeon.

As his candidacy has become more serious, his past has been more closely scrutinised. Last week, CNN reported that several of Dr Carson’s childhood acquaintances were “surprised” by his published claims that he committed violent acts as a boy, including attempting to stab a friend in the abdomen and hit his mother with a hammer during an argument.

CNN’s sources said they could not recall the events described, and that they would have been dramatically out of character. Dr Carson responded to the network’s report by calling it a “bunch of lies”, putting him in the somewhat bizarre position of being a presidential candidate insisting that he really had tried to kill a friend and assault his own mother.

Meanwhile, Politico published a story disputing the candidate’s claim that, as a young man, he was offered a “full scholarship” to West Point, the US military academy. Dr Carson, who called Politico’s piece a “bold-faced lie”, acknowledged in a later interview with The New York Times that the offer had not been entirely official. “It was, you know, an informal ‘With a record like yours, we could easily get you a scholarship to West Point’,” he said. (In fact, there are no “scholarships” to West Point; those accepted at the academy attend tuition-free. In any event, the young Carson went to Yale to study medicine.)

Ben Carson speaking at a gala for the Black Republican Caucus of South Florida
Ben Carson speaking at a gala for the Black Republican Caucus of South Florida (Getty)

At Friday’s press conference, Dr Carson said: “I do not remember this level of scrutiny for ... Barack Obama when he was running.” He went on to allude to several discredited conspiracy theories surrounding the President, and mentioned Mr Obama’s much-examined relationships with figures including former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers and pastor Jeremiah Wright.

Last week, Buzzfeed uncovered a 17-year-old video of a speech in which Dr Carson theorised that the Egyptian pyramids were built on the advice of the biblical Joseph to store grain during a famine. He has stood by the comments, pointing out to CBS News that the monuments contain sealed chambers. “You would need that if you were trying to preserve grain for a long period of time,” he said.

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