East County News Service
Photo by Gage Skidmore
Updated with correction: student corroborates Carson's Yale test story
November 8, 2015 (Washington D.C.)—Our nation’s first president, George Washington, once said, “I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.” President Abraham Lincoln was so noted for his integrity that he early on earned the nickname “Honest Abe."
But at least one presidential candidate today--and possibly several, may fall far short of those ideals. The latest in the spotlight this week is Republican candidate and neurosurgeon Ben Carson. Major media outlets have exposed that Carson made unsubsantiated claims about a West Point scholarship as welll as his troubled juvenile past. Ironically, questions have also been raised about Carson's claim of being named most honest student in a psychology class at Yale University, though new evidence suggests this claim may be true.
In his autobiography,”Gifted Hands,” Carson wrote that he obtained a “full scholarship” to the West Point military academy. But a Politico investigation revealed that West Point says Carson never applied to the military academy. Though Carson slammed Politico and claimed the media was trying to “discredit” him after the story ran, he admitted to the New York Times that he never applied, let alone gained admittance to West Point—and admission is required before any financial aid is offered.
Carson has also talked about his transformation and redemption from a violent youthful past, claiming in his past he hurled bricks and rocks at people, even engaging in beatings with a baseball bat and a stabbing. But a CNN investigation that included interviews with many youthful colleagues of Carson’s failed to find a single person who could confirm any of his stories. Carson accused CNN of a “witch hunt” but he declined to provide any corroborating evidence to support his claims.
The Wall Street Journal decided to investigate another bizarre story of Carson’s in which he claimed a teacher tested the class to see who was the most honest student, and Carson won. That story was initially reported by major media to be a hoax, too-apparently based loosely on a story published in a Yale parody newspaper. However, one day after our original story ran, a classmate of Carson's came forward to report that the prank test described by Carson's did occur, Buzzflash, a progressive news site reported. Though no other student has yet come forward to corroborate the claim, it appears plausible that Carson may be correct in his recollection on this incident.
Carson is not the only candidate in the race to face questions about honesty and ethics. Democratic front-runner Hillary question has faced a Congressional probe and FBI investigation over her use of private e-mails while she was Secretary of State. Carly Fiorina's description of a Planned Parenthood video were found to be exaggerated, as were some of her claims regarding Obama's economic record.
There is a difference, of course, between remembering figures or a video's content incorrectly and intentionally inflating biographical details. Another key factor for voters to weigh is whether a candidate admits if he or she was mistaken, or stands by a provable inaccuracy.
While many candidates fall short of the honesty standards set by early presidents, only voters can determine how much integrity matters in choosing which candidate to support for the nation's highest office.