The following is an editorial from Politicususa co-publisher Sarah Jones.
Maybe the media is crucifying Ben Carson over nitpicking details. He clearly believes he is the only candidate this has ever happened to. And after all, Sunday morning Ben Carson posted proof of one of his stories.
The top polling Republican presidential candidate is offering up proof for a story he told in his book “Gifted Hands” that the Wall Street Journal couldn’t verify about Carson being the only student willing to retake his psychology test after the professor said all of the tests burned, which resulted in the professor calling Carson the most honest student.
Follow this: The “proof” is a Yale Daily News post based on a parody issue of the News published by the Yale Record. Phew. Carson even shared the “evidence” on Facebook (his highlights, presumably):
Carson wants an apology, writing on Facebook, “On Saturday a reporter with the Wall Street Journal published a story that my account of being the victim of a hoax at Yale where students were led to believe the exams they had just taken were destroyed and we needed to retake the exam was false. The reporter claimed that no evidence existed to back up my story. Even went so far as to say the class didn’t exist.
Well here is the student newspaper account of the incident that occurred on January 14, 1970.
Will an apology be coming. I doubt it.”
Is he entitled to an apology from the Wall Street Journal?
The clipping is almost like the Carson story, in which 150 students walked out of a “Perceptions 301” class after the professor announced that everyone had to retake their psychology test due to the tests being burnt and the new exam was even tougher. Carson wrote that after he was the only student to stay in order to take the exam, a photographer from the Yale Daily News approached him to take his picture. The professor then announced it had been a hoax to see who was most honest, and offered Carson $10 for being the most honest student.
But the clipping being offered as proof doesn’t have any of those details – it’s basically a fake story about some Psychology 10 papers burning that fooled several students into taking a fake make up exam. Both are hoaxes, but the rest of the details are wrong.
The Wall Street Journal couldn’t find this photo Carson said was taken nor any mention in the paper of a class called Perceptions 301. Ok, those could be minor details one would hope a writer would vet before publishing their own book, but not really a big deal.
The big deal is that no one was glorified as most honest.
In all of Carson’s stories that are currently at issue, unable to be verified, he is either glorified or violent, proof for the Republican evangelical base of his major redemption. It doesn’t work if these things didn’t happen.
While some journalists are arguing that these might be mild memory discrepancies, there is a pattern emerging that suggests that Ben Carson has a very active imagination that turns even a parody in the college paper into an event where he is being honored as a result of his religious redemption.
Does Carson believe his own version of reality, even when confronted with contradictory facts? It seems so.
Politico’s money guy Ben White, whose opinions are usually pretty conservative, thinks Carson’s complaints about being vetted are unfounded, as this happens to every presidential candidate, “Also tell him to talk to Bill Clinton about draft-gate, marijuana-gate, Monica-gate, whitewater et al”:
Also tell him to talk to Bill Clinton about draft-gate, marijuana-gate, Monica-gate, whitewater et al https://t.co/tJ36qREhpC
— Ben White (@morningmoneyben) November 8, 2015
Vetting happens to all presidential candidates. It’s not pleasant. It could be argued that we have taken it too far so as to eliminate anyone who is human, but Ben Carson is not the person to make that argument.
The major problem with Ben Carson’s tendency to embellish memories in a way that glorifies himself is it’s best if a world leader is in touch with reality. It isn’t about whether this specific meeting took place on Memorial Day (turns out the General was in Detroit later several months earlier, so it’s possible Carson mixed the dates up) or he made up this one story; but rather that there is a pattern of embellishment bordering on grandiosity that is troubling.
A person has to have a large ego to run for president, so a few embarrassing embellishments are to be expected. In fact we’ve seen this habit in most modern day presidents; but not so consistently as to suggest an inability to see things as they really are most of the time.
And if they do have this habit, they quickly learn that there is a new standard when running for president. Carson has no intention of learning this, he isn’t going to adjust. He isn’t taking in the widely available information and assimilating it in order to function better as a presidential candidate.
Carson is stuck gazing at that big painting of himself above his own fireplace, and no unpleasant tinges of reality are going go get through to him.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.