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November 12, 2015

Sorry, Ben Carson Does Deserve an Apology

In Reid J. Epstein's Wall Street Journal article, “Carson Criticizes Media for Questioning His Biography,” Epstein writes that “Mr. Carson’s life story — a rise from poverty to become a top neurosurgeon — is central to his candidacy and is getting additional attention as he has become the front-runner.” Part of this attention is scrutiny of Carson’s autobiography, Gifted Hands. Let’s see what dark misdeeds they found in Gifted Hands.

CNN claims to have conducted an investigation to corroborate his childhood story of trying to stab a friend in a fit of rage. Since they couldn’t find an eyewitness, they insinuated the incident was fabricated. CNN’s investigation was so thorough they failed to find his mother’s 1997 confirmation of the story.

Politico contrived a scandal around some imprecise wording about Carson claiming to have received an offer to West Point. Despite Politico needing to alter the headline and revise the article, the allegation that Carson had lied spread far and wide.

Last Friday, Epstein of the Wall Street Journal broke the huge story that there is no evidence collaborating Carson’s description of a hoax at Yale. Over the weekend, Carson posted a Yale Daily News story about the hoax. Carson demanded an apology, which he doubted would be forthcoming. In the Monday article referenced above, Epstein defended his hit piece on the grounds that the course name and number remained incorrect, Carson would have been a freshman instead of a junior at the time of the incident, and the article failed to include a photograph of Carson to prove that he was involved in the incident. On Tuesday a former staffer on the Yale Daily News came forward to attest that the hoax actually did occur and Ben Carson was a member of the class. Since this staffer was not present during the hoax, he couldn’t confirm that Carson was physically present during the fake test. Presumably, this is all Epstein needs to avoid an act of contrition.

In an entire autobiography, this was it? An unflattering account of youthful anger, sloppy editing about a scholarship to West Point, and the absence of proof positive that Carson was physically present during an undergraduate hoax. Scrutiny of The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin and Roughing It by Mark Twain wouldn’t have survived as well.

Politico, CNN, and the Wall Street Journal found three nothing-burgers and shouted them from the rooftops like they were as reprehensible as falsely claiming to be under sniper fire in Bosnia. Worse, not one of these stories have an iota of relevance to “Mr. Carson’s life story — a rise from poverty to become a top neurosurgeon.”

Ben Carson wasn’t my favorite candidate, at least not before this below the belt onslaught. Now I wonder why this compassionate and brilliant man is so feared by the establishment. Perhaps I missed something others saw. Then I remember the National Prayer Breakfast when President Obama was seemingly unassailable. To his face, Ben Carson told the emperor he had no clothes. I already mentioned that he is compassionate and brilliant. I need to add brave. That character combination scares the bejesus out of the Washington elite.

Epstein evidently believes Carson must prove him 100% wrong before he’s entitled to an apology. Just because a candidate resides on the other side of the political divide does not give journalists license to abandon professional ethics.

Epstein, apologize.

James D. Best is the author of Tempest at Dawn and eight other books.

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