Conservative media reacted to Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson's reported admission that he fabricated his application and acceptance into the U.S. Military Academy at West Point by saying that the news is “very bad” and Carson is likely “done.” Several commentators later took back their initial critiques after the Carson campaign hit back at Politico's report.*
Politico: “Carson Claimed West Point 'Scholarship' But Never Applied”
Politico reported on November 6 of Carson's “claims of a full scholarship” to West Point:
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson on Friday conceded that he never applied nor was granted admission to West Point and attempted to recast his previous claims of a full scholarship to the military academy -- despite numerous public and written statements to the contrary over the last few decades.
West Point has occupied a central place in Carson's personal story for years. According to a tale told in his 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 the offer of a “full scholarship” to the military academy.
West Point, however, has no record of Carson applying, much less being extended admission.
“In 1969, those who would have completed the entire process would have received their acceptance letters from the Army Adjutant General,” said Theresa Brinkerhoff, a spokeswoman for the academy. She said West Point has no records that indicate Carson even began the application process. “If he chose to pursue (the application process), then we would have records indicating such,” she said.
When presented by POLITICO with these facts, Carson's campaign conceded he never applied. [Politico, 11/6/15]
Carson Recently Made The Scholarship Claim On PBS. During an October 9, 2015, appearance on PBS' Charlie Rose, Carson claimed “I was offered a full scholarship to West Point”:
CARSON: But I did hear a lot of what you can't do. Like when I joined the ROTC and I joined late so I wouldn't have the full six semesters, I would only have five. And you know, I had a goal of achieving the office of city executive officer. Well no one had ever done that in that amount of time and everybody told me, you can't do that. But long story short, it worked -- I did it. I was offered a full scholarship to West Point, got to meet General Westmoreland, go to Congressional Medal of Honor dinners. But decided really my pathway would be medicine. [PBS, Charlie Rose, 10/9/15]
Carson Campaign Hit Back At Politico For Report. Carson's campaign subsequently hit back at Politico's report, calling it “an outright Lie” and arguing that Carson “never said he was admitted or even applied” to West Point. [Talking Points Memo, 11/6/15; Daily Caller, 11/6/15]
Conservative Media React: “This Is Very Bad,” "Carson Is Done," "Beginning Of Ben Carson's End"
Erick Erickson: “The Beginning Of Ben Carson's End.” Fox News contributor and radio host Erickson wrote on his website that the fabrication is the beginning of the end for his campaign:
Carson's life story has been a central point of his appeal and the West Point story has been part of that appeal. If the other campaigns and the media can go after Carson on trust, his campaign is finished. His support levels are very high, but his support is also very, very soft. People are supporting Carson because they are not enamored with the rest of the field, but they are not wedded to him.
As CNN goes after the knifing story and now the Carson campaign is admitting this fabrication, we're about to see a novice politician with a less than highly skilled campaign begin to head into a storm the candidate himself created. [Erickontheradio.com, 11/6/15]
UPDATE: Erickson subsequently wrote “Hit the Brakes on the Ben Carson Story,” and “I've struck through the original piece here. It is looking more and more like the details of Ben Carson's West Point story are more nuanced.” [Erickontheradio.com, 11/6/15]
Luntz: "This Actually Could (I.E. This Will) Be A Problem For Ben Carson." From CBS and Fox News contributor Frank Luntz:
Okay, this actually could (i.e. this will) be a problem for Ben Carson. https://t.co/WZT0l7ARYS
-- Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) November 6, 2015
Nolte: "If This Is True, Carson Is Done." From Breitbart News' John Nolte:
If this is true, Carson is done. https://t.co/G4CTddizQ4
-- John Nolte (@NolteNC) November 6, 2015
UPDATE: Nolte's tweet was deleted after he changed his opinion about Politico's Carson story. [Twitter.com, 11/6/15]
Harrington: “Welp, You Had A Good Run.” Free Beacon reporter Elizabeth Harrington wrote:
Welp, you had a good run https://t.co/ikUXlkAbuU
-- Elizabeth Harrington (@LizWFB) November 6, 2015
Douthat: “People, Don't Run For President.” New York Times columnist Ross Douthat wrote:
People, don't run for president: https://t.co/UDR5SPgUgP
-- Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) November 6, 2015
Pavlich: “This Is Very Bad.” Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich wrote:
This is very bad https://t.co/VtwcG9uv7z
-- Katie Pavlich (@KatiePavlich) November 6, 2015
UPDATE: Pavlich later took back her tweet and criticized Politico. [Twitter.com, 11/6/15]
Crowley: “Not Good.” Fox News contributor Monica Crowley wrote:
Not good. RT “Ben Carson admits fabricating West Point scholarship” https://t.co/uXlrJMkV29
-- Monica Crowley (@MonicaCrowley) November 6, 2015
UPDATE: Crowley later retweeted criticism of the Politico piece by conservative writer Ben Shapiro. [Twitter.com, 11/6/15]
Morrissey: “It's Difficult To See How” Carson Survives This. Hot Air's Ed Morrissey wrote:
Can Carson survive this? It's difficult to see how, although the GOP base has a lot of affection for the brilliant neurosurgeon. Part of that affection was based on the perception that he was a truth-teller to power, so exaggerating or fabricating his own life story undercuts that perception, does it not? Even assuming that this is the only exaggeration that would emerge with more scrutiny -- and that's a very risky bet on a newcomer -- the fact that Carson didn't act to correct the record on his own undermines the truth-teller narrative, too. With other options in the field, it seems unlikely that Carson can maintain his momentum after getting caught in a fabrication and admitting to it. [HotAir.com, 11/6/15]
UPDATE: Morrissey posted numerous updates about the controversy, including one where he writes that “the campaign should have been better prepared for it when that scrutiny came.”
Well, that could have confused a 17-year-old high school senior, to be sure -- but would it still have confused an established professional writing his memoirs? Or a presidential candidate? He didn't get offered a “full scholarship” or admission -- just assistance if he decided to apply -- so why keep saying he was offered a place at West Point? At the very least, it's sloppy, and should have been corrected or explained better before the media began applying its usual scrutiny of Republican candidates. And the campaign should have been better prepared for it when that scrutiny came. [HotAir.com, 11/6/15]
Podhoretz: “I Seriously Don't Understand Why People Are Defending Carson. He Fibbed.” New York Post and Weekly Standard writer John Podhoretz wrote:
I seriously don't understand why people are defending Carson. He fibbed. It's not a felony. It's a fib. But it's his. He did it.
-- John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) November 6, 2015
UPDATE: Podhoretz later wrote on Twitter, “Politico's headline stank. That said, he fibbed.” [Twitter.com, 11/6/15]
Starnes: “Dr. Carson -- How Disappointing, Sir.” Fox News Radio host Todd Starnes wrote:
Dr. Carson -- how disappointing, sir.
-- toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) November 6, 2015
Rubin: “It Is Simply Mind-Boggling.” Washington Post opinion writer Jennifer Rubin wrote on her blog:
In an ominous turn for Carson Politico has discovered he lied about receiving a West Point scholarship. No doubt this will intensify efforts to determine if he has lied in other respects. We don't know what would have motivated him to make such an egregious falsehood, but it certainly raises the possibility that if he lied about something like a West Point scholarship there are other inaccuracies in his story. It is simply mind-boggling that Carson could image untruths would not come out in a presidential run. [WashingtonPost.com, 11/6/15]
Rousselle: “Absolutely Befuddling.” Townhall.com Managing Web Editor Christine Rousselle wrote:
Carson's life story was already inspiring enough without any need for embellishment. He grew up in poverty. He was the top ROTC student in the city of Detroit, and graduated from Yale and the University of Michigan. He had a successful career in neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins, and, as we all know, was the first to successfully separate conjoined twins who were joined at the head. These are all incredibly impressive things in their own right, and it's absolutely befuddling as to why he felt he had to enhance his story even further. [Townhall.com, 11/6/15]
Joseph: “So, Carson Is Done, Right?” MRCTV's Dan Joseph tweeted:
So, Carson is done, right?
-- Dan Joseph (@DanJoseph78) November 6, 2015
*This post has been updated with additional examples and to note changes in commentators' views and to reflect changes made by Politico in its headline and article.