Sunday, November 8, 2015

Presidential Hopeful Ben Carson Standing Firm Amidst Media Attacks

Cover of one of Ben Carson's biographies.
Recently, Ben Carson has been under fire from the media and public for supposedly exaggerating or fabricating stories from his biographies. The retired Head of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital is depicted in his biographies as being raised as a poor boy with violent tendencies, who decided to turn his life around to become a talented and accomplished surgeon.

Recent investigations and questioning of Carson's childhood friends has failed to provide any evidence that Carson was a violent child, although in his biography "Gifted Hands," he recounts stories of stabbing and punching a classmate. He also claims to have had sheltered some of his white classmates in a science classroom during a race riot at his high school, but none of his interviewed classmates seemed to have been able to recall this heroic act. Furthermore, another inspirational story from his biography claims that Carson was the most honest student in his "Perceptions 301" class for being the only student not to walk out of the classroom when the professor conducted some sort of experiment where he told his students that they all had to retake their final exams. Records of this "Perceptions 301" class have not been found on the Yale records. Politico magazine also published an article disputing Carson's claim that he was offered a "full scholarship" to West Point, while records show that Carson never even applied to the school.

As the media coverage and stronger scrutiny of Carson's past continues, he is standing his ground. As a response to these claims by the media, Carson said, "Show me somebody, even from your business, the media, who is 100 percent accurate in everything that they say that happened 40 or 50 years ago" (Huffington Post article). Despite this, Carson admits that he may have gotten the name of the number of his "Perceptions 301" class wrong, but he still stands behind and reinforces many of these highly disputed stories.

While every presidential candidate is scrutinized by media, Carson seems to be taking more heat about his past than most others. Do you think that Carson may have fabricated many of these stories that can be seen as such inspirational points in his campaign? Also, how much does it matter than he may have embellished or exaggerated stories with regards to his ability to be a good President?

Huffington PostCNNNY TimesPolitico


Nick Jadallah said...

Thanks for writing about this. Taking in to consideration that Carson has recently surpassed Trump as the lead GOP candidate in several, recent polls, it should be expected that he take a lot of heat from critics. Trump took heat, Clinton took heat, now it is his turn. Regarding the allegations you mentioned, I think that they would be especially detrimental to Carson because he is a candidate who relies on the "gentle, moral, and calm" approach. Openly religious, he stresses deteriorating morals as a problem in the current societal system. If he is caught lying about his past, I think that may have a more serious backlash against his campaign, because lying, after all, is not a moral action. Whether or not it will seriously jeopardize his campaign is something that, honestly, I don't think I could predict very well.
When I read about this, I personally became upset because, aside from his politics, I admire Dr. Carson as a surgeon. I have actually read 'Gifted Hands", and it portrays Carson as a kid who had to overcome a ton of difficult challenges both as a child and as an adult to ultimately become famous for being the first neurosurgeon to separate twins conjoined at the head. I remember several of the scenes you referenced, especially the one about the knife stabbing. As much as it contributed to the book, it was not necessary for Carson to lie about that incident. It had an impact on the reader, but there were still other things that portrayed Carson's childhood struggles.
That's about it. Good article.

Anna Joshi said...

Although I have not personally read the book, I agree with Nick that it doesn’t seem necessary for him to lie about this if he already has so many outstanding credentials. I definitely believe that he very well could’ve fabricated a few of these stories to emphasize them as inspirational points, yet I believe that should only happen to an extent. If he has truly made up the story that he stabbed someone, personally I believe that’s going too far. I don’t understand why he would make up that type of story out of all the stories he could make up such as just getting into a fight, or at least something that isn’t out of proportion. If this is the case, that he did make it up, I would think that it would cause many people to significantly question his judgment. But then maybe not since his book is part of a business and he has to have some “wow” factors to make it sell. Further, I don’t believe his exaggerated stories will make a huge impact on his ability to be a good President since it doesn’t directly reflect on his ability to lead people, let alone a country.

TJ Bonbright said...

I agree with Nick in that, for someone who has campaigned on the grounds of morality, something like this definitely is not a way to make yourself look better. Lying in this manner certainly undercuts the effectiveness of his stance on morality. As a result, he should expect to lose support from those to whom morality is a significant value. That being said, I don't believe his campaign will be impacted in a big way because although he has not been completely truthful, the significance of his dishonesty is not as substantial as, say, lying about one's stance on a controversial issue. At the end of the day you can call Carson a liar, but these are embellishments that, while surely bolster his image, do not make up the foundations of his campaign nor the reason most people support him. Like Anna mentioned, there are many other impressive things Carson has achieved that are factually accurate, such as his success as a neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital. In the short term, yes, maybe Carson's popularity will decrease, but overall, this incident should not affect him significantly.

Abhishek Paramasivan said...

While I have not read his books, I'm pretty sure would not outright lie about his stories. However, there is a decent chance that he exaggerated the anecdotes in order to make him self seem like a more humble person. If he was elected president, this probably wouldn't affect him in fulfilling some of the main roles regarding the presidency, but would probably impact state of the union addresses and other public updates. If history had shown him as someone who exaggerates facts to make his own story seem better, it will be more likely that he will spin the numbers and statistics behind government activity to make it seem like a relative growth. On the topic of his current campaign, I think that like, Nick said, his exaggerations may come off to some people as outright lying and seem un-moralistic. With him being so close to Trump, it may end up giving the republican nomination to Trump.