The problem with Ben Carson’s backstory

Yesterday Scott Eric Kaufman of Salon wrote an informative piece outlining the problem with Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson’s backstory of a kid from the wrong side of the tracks who made good: it’s simply not true.

In preparation for an interview with Ben Carson on “New Day” Friday, CNN investigated claims the retired neurosurgeon made about his upbringing in his 1990 autobiography “Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story,” but was unable to find corroboration for the incidents of violence that are at the core of his story of transformation from an angry young man into the calm, collected GOP hopeful he is today.

Carson claims to have punched a seventh-grade classmate in the head while holding a lock, and attempted to stab a classmate named “Bob” in ninth grade, but CNN spoke to nine people who knew him at the time — two of whom lived next door to the Carsons and knew young Ben well — and not a single one of them could corroborate his stories.

Carson has said that this is because he was ashamed of his temper and hid it from the world, but the incident in seventh grade allegedly happened at school, where one classmate, Gerald Ware, said that if it had happened, “it would have been all over the school.”

Carson wrote in “Gifted Hands” that people who didn’t know him as a yout would “think I’m exaggerating when I say I had a bad temper,” but even the people who did know him believe he’s exaggerating.

“He got through his day trying not to be noticed,” Robert Collier told CNN. “I remember him having a pocket saver. He had thick glasses. He was skinny and unremarkable.”

Dorian Reeves, who attended elementary, middle and high school with Carson, said “I personally do not have knowledge of those incidents.” Upon learning of them in Carson’s book, he said, “I wondered, ‘When did that happen?’”

I’ve heard it mentioned elsewhere, but it bears repeating here: the Republican presidential race really has become more of a reality show than an actual political race.


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