Media Debunk Ben Carson's Claim That He Is Being Unfairly Scrutinized By Reporters

Media figures from multiple outlets debunked Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson's allegations that no other presidential candidate has undergone similar scrutiny, after he lashed out at the media for reporting on several discrepancies in his autobiographical claims.

Ben Carson Lashed Out At Media For Finding Discrepancies In His Biography

CNN: Carson “Launched ... Angry And Mocking Critique Of The Media Coverage This Week.” Ben Carson attacked news organizations after he claimed the “biased media” was out to get him for investigating assertions he made about his past. A CNN report explained Carson said he “simply cannot sit still and watch unfairness” as the media called into question details from his biography. The media could not verify Carson's accounts of receiving a scholarship to West Point, stabbing a classmate, protecting students from “a race riot” in high school, or a story involving an exam at Yale:

Ben Carson on Sunday continued to push back against journalists as he criticized recent scrutiny of his descriptions about his youth.

The retired neurosurgeon and Republican presidential contender insisted at a political rally and on three morning news shows that reports about his claims about a violent youth, a Politico report about a scholarship offer to West Point and a story about a Yale class are actually helping his campaign.

Speaking to reporters after a political rally in Puerto Rico Sunday morning, Carson pushed back on the notion that the scrutiny on his past is “getting under his skin” -- but then launched into an angry and mocking critique of the media coverage this week.

“It's not particularly getting under my skin, obviously it's helping me,” said Carson, who on Saturday thanked a “biased media” for helping him fundraise $3.5 million last week. “But I simply cannot sit still and watch unfairness. I am always going to call that out when I see it.”

On Thursday, CNN's Scott Glover and Maeve Reston reported that nine friends, classmates and neighbors who grew up with Carson could not confirm accounts from his 1990 autobiography “Gifted Hands” of a childhood of violence, including an attempted stabbing and punching a classmate in the face with his hand wrapped around a lock. The next day, Politico published a story claiming that the Carson campaign admitted that he “fabricated” an account of applying and being admitted to West Point -- a headline the outlet later softened.

And late Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that it couldn't confirm Carson's account of protecting white students during a race riot back when he was a high school junior or a story involving a psychology exam while at Yale. [CNN, 11/8/15]

Carson: “I Expect To Be Vetted, But Being Vetted And What Is Going On With Me” Is Different. During an interview that aired on the November 8 edition of NBC's Meet the Press, Ben Carson claimed that media investigations about him have gone beyond the normal vetting of presidential candidates:

When asked about whether he was ready for the intense scrutiny and vetting of a presidential campaign, Carson said he was but pushed back on whether what he is experiencing is fair.

“I have always said that I expect to be vetted, but being vetted and what is going on with me -- 'You said this 30 years ago, you said this 20 years ago, this didn't exist' -- you know, I have not seen that with anyone else. If you can show me where that's happened with someone else I will take that statement back,” he said.

Carson said this kind of scrutiny is born out of the “secular progressive movement in this country.” [, 11/9/15]

Media Figures Debunk Carson's Allegation That Presidential Candidates Are Not “Vetted” Like He Is

CNN Host: “Journalists Ask Questions. That's The Process.” On the November 9 edition of CNN's New Day, Jackie Kucinich, an editor for The Daily Beast stated that going through the past of a presidential candidate is “all fair game” and “this is part of the process.” Host Alisyn Camerota agreed, adding that Carson is launching “an attack on journalism”:

ALISYN CAMEROTA: What about that Jackie? Is [Carson] being vetted more than other people?

JACKIE KUCINICH: No. That's crazy. That's ludicrous. He doesn't have a legislative record. He has a book that he has based his entire -- it's his autobiography, how he tells his story. So, why wouldn't the media, why wouldn't any of us want to fact check that? Because it is the central part of his candidacy. It's why people trust him. So that deserves to be looked into. And the idea that going back into someone's past is off limits, I mean, how many times have we gone into the Clinton's past, into -- we were looking at when Joe Biden was talking about running, into what he did with the crime bill. This is part of the process. George Bush -- I'm sorry, Jeb Bush's governorship, this is all fair game. This is part of the process. Welcome to the big leagues.


CAMEROTA: Let's be honest. It makes it somehow easier to say that he attacks the media and that the media is bad. It's an attack on journalism. Let's just call it what it is. It's an attack on journalism. Journalists ask questions. That's the process. And if you don't like journalism, we should talk about that with presidential candidates. [CNN, New Day, 11/9/15]

MSNBC's Joe Scarborough: “It Shows [Carson's] Complete And Total Ignorance Of American Political History To Say There's Never Been Vetting Like This.” On the November 9 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough said that Carson “has been given cotton candy and ... lollipops by the mainstream media,” dismissing his claims of unfair scrutiny. Scarborough then explained how other presidential candidates, including Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and George W. Bush, have been vetted in the past:

JOE SCARBOROUGH: It shows his complete and total ignorance of American political history to say there's never been vetting like this. You look at Hillary Clinton -- and by the way, she deserves everything she's gotten from this table.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: But she has been completely raked over the coals.

SCARBOROUGH: We have raked Hillary over the coals--

BRZEZINSKI: And she keeps coming--

SCARBOROUGH: --nonstop day in and day out and we've done it here searching for the truth. All right. You look at George W. Bush, the National Guard story. They went after Bush there. Joe Biden, again, like I said before when he ran in '88. Look at Bill Clinton. You know, Jon Meacham, Bill Clinton back in 1992, we heard that he had visited the USSR; that was something swirling around forever. Barack Obama, Barack Obama didn't get it with Jeremiah Wright? How many times did we talk and how many times did the national media talk about him saying “God damn the United States of America” the day after or the Sunday after 9/11? I mean, we all know that. We all heard about Bill Ayers. We all heard about everything with Barack Obama. Ben Carson has been given cotton candy and treated to lollipops by the mainstream media.

BRZEZINSKI: Yep. [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 11/9/15]

PBS' Gwen Ifill: When Carson “Says There Has Never Been Scrutiny Like There Has Been Directed At Him, That Is Just Not So.” On the November 8 edition of NBC's Meet the Press, PBS anchor Gwen Ifill said Carson's attacks on the media were not warranted, and that he seemed “surprised what it takes to run for president,” because “what it takes to run for president is scrutiny”:

CHUCK TODD (HOST): Gwen, you've been on the trail a long time over the years. Personal stories ... and I guess, to me, the danger for Dr. Carson is the fact that his candidacy is built on biography and built on honesty.

GWEN IFILL: It is built on saying this is who I am, these are my boot straps. And we all admire that. The interesting thing about people, the “outsiders” we talk about so much, is that they all seem surprised what it takes to run for president. And what it takes to run for president is scrutiny. When Dr. Carson says there has never been scrutiny like there has been directed at him, that is just not so. [NBC, Meet the Press, 11/8/15]

CNN Reporter: “It's Absurd That Dr. Carson Doesn't Expect That Reporters Wouldn't Look Into This Aspect Of His Past.” CNN's Maeve Reston, who wrote about Carson's biography, said reporters “constantly look into these issues for all of the candidates who are running for president” and called Carson's claim that the press is unfair toward him “absurd”:

BRIAN STELTER (HOST): Supporters of Carson would say why are you even bothering? That's what I'm trying to get at. Why even bother doing that?

MAEVE RESTON: Because any presidential candidate that describes episodes like this in their past is going to have to expect an amount of -- a certain amount of scrutiny on those incidents. When you're talking about someone who's going to be President of the United States, you want to know as much as possible about their temperament, how they dealt with earlier incidents of their temperament. I mean, this is my fourth presidential campaign. We constantly look into these issues for all of the candidates who are running for president. And I think it's absurd that Dr. Carson doesn't expect that reporters would look into this aspect of his past. We are still waiting for the Carson campaign to connect us with people who can tell us more about these incidents.

STELTER: Yeah and I think you made an important point there that you all were trying to get the campaign to help you find those people and they didn't. So when he calls this an attack, you say it's just journalism?

RESTON: It's just journalism. And you know, I understand that Dr. Carson is not a politician. He's not run for office before. That's obviously a huge part of his appeal. But there are going to be many questions for all of these candidates to answer and the burden of proof is on them to show us that these incidents happened. And at various points the other thing that was troubling to us was that his version of events has changed so we're trying to get more clarification from the campaign on what the timeline of these incidents was and learn more about this part of his life.

STELTER: I'm so glad you were here this morning Maeve because I do think that there is a misunderstanding sometimes among viewers and readers about why we do what we do. I want every single candidate, Democratic and Republican vetted, vetted, vetted, even though it's uncomfortable sometimes. So I appreciate you being here sharing that side of the story. [CNN, Reliable Sources, 11/8/15]

Washington Post: Carson's Assertion That No Other Presidential Candidate Has Been Vetted Like Him “Is Not Backed Up By The Facts.” In the November 9 edition of The Washington Post's Daily 202 newsletter, James Hohmann wrote that Carson “believes very sincerely” that he is being unfairly vetted by the media, but such statements are “not backed up by the facts.” Hohmann also detailed how other journalists have taken a look at other presidential candidates, including Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, and Carly Fiorina:

Ben Carson has clearly been caught off guard by the scrutiny that comes with leading the polls in a presidential campaign. On yesterday's Sunday shows, the retired neurosurgeon asserted repeatedly that no one has ever been vetted like he's being right now. That is not backed up by the facts, but it is also clearly something that he believes very sincerely.


On the Republican side: When Jeb Bush was the presumed Republican frontrunner earlier this year, there were deep dives into everything from his drug and alcohol use while at the Andover prep school to the many ways that he benefited from his father's political connections as a young man in Miami. Reporters went to Mexico to explore Columba Bush's stormy childhood.

After Trump rose to the top of the polls, his business record was heavily scrutinized, including four big bankruptcies. After he suggested in July that John McCain was not a true war hero because he got captured, The Post looked at Trump's high-flying lifestyle during the years that the Arizona senator lived in the Hanoi Hilton.

Carson's complaints also sounded silly because they were uttered as many reporters were poring over Marco Rubio's credit card receipts from a decade ago, which the Florida senator's campaign released Saturday night. Rubio, who was considered a possible VP pick in 2012, has already faced a degree of scrutiny that Carson has not. In 2011, my colleague Manuel Roig-Franzia uncovered that the freshman senator had embellished facts about his family emigrating from Cuba. The senator's parents came to the United States and were admitted for permanent residence more than two-and-a-half years before Fidel Castro's forces took power.

There have also been stories this cycle about--

  • Bobby Jindal's involvement in a 1994 exorcism and his conversion to Christianity
  • Why Scott Walker dropped out of college before graduating
  • Carly Fiorina's rocky tenure as CEO of HP before she got fired by her board
  • Ted Cruz's guilty plea in 1987 for possession of alcohol as a minor, published by BuzzFeed after a public information request for his application to become Texas' Solicitor General
  • Chris Christie's high school years were explored during the Bridgegate scandal. David Wildstein, who graduated from the school a year ahead of the New Jersey governor and was a statistician for the baseball team, helped carry out the plan to shut down lanes on the George Washington Bridge. [The Washington Post, The Daily 202, 11/9/15]

Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe: “The Suggestion That Others Have Not Gone Through This [Scrutiny] Ignores History.” On the November 8 edition of CBS' Face the Nation, Washington Post political reporter Ed O'Keefe stated that “presidential candidates, especially those who suddenly start to do well” get vetted. He added that this has happened to Gary Hart, Vice President Biden, President Obama, and Herman Cain in past elections:

JOHN DICKERSON (HOST): So Ben Carson and the stories about his autobiography. Is this a threat or a gnat to be swatted away?

ED O'KEEFE: I think he thinks it's a gnat to be swatted away. ... I'm kind of fascinated by his response to all of this, however. I mean, the idea that presidential candidates, especially those who suddenly start to do well, don't get vetted, don't get scrutinized a lot more, he's clearly struggling, I think, with this. And the suggestion that others have not gone through this ignores history. I think if you go back to Gary Hart, Joe Biden, Bill Clinton, certainly President Obama, Herman Cain last time, this happens. [CBS, Face the Nation, 11/8/15]

UPDATE: Fox Contributor: Looking Into Carson's Past “Is Consistent” With Media's Treatment Of Other Candidates. On the November 9 edition of Fox News' The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, network contributor Eboni Williams stated that the media's treatment of Carson is fair, arguing that “we have to go all the way back to the vetting of Barack Obama ... they were tearing this man apart”:

GRETCHEN CARLSON (HOST): Then it brings you back to, do they do this for all the candidates in the same way? Listen to Reince Priebus this morning.


REINCE PRIEBUS: This is a totally crazy obsession over incredible detail from 30 and 40 years ago. We kind of wish the media would be just as obsessed or half-obsessed with Hillary Clinton's lies. The difference is that the media is actually -- they do have an actual vendetta or at least an agenda against some of these candidates.


CARLSON: All right, so Eboni, what do you think about that? Is it fair? 

EBONI WILLIAMS: Yeah, I heard that full interview, Gretchen. I don't think it's fair. I think what Priebus is saying there falls empty. Because we have to go all the way back to the vetting of Barack Obama, an unknown who had not a lot of political record to run on. He also, like Dr. Carson, relied heavily on personal narrative. And before he was America's media darling, which I acknowledge he became, I mean they were tearing this man apart about his association with Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers and what have you. So I do think this is consistent in the media in the beginning. [Fox News, The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson11/9/15]

This post has been updated to include additional examples