Carson and the West Point Story

I originally put this in a comment, here:

but on thinking about it, it needs a bit more visibility. So here’s a repeat:

Dr. Ben Carson and the West Point story.

In the news today is a “hit piece” on Dr. Carson claiming he lied about turning down a scholarship to West Point.

At first I thought “Oh no! He LIED?!”. Looking into it, not so fast.

In this case I’m reaching to that bastion of Left Wing Talking Points, the New York Times:

Quoted in full as sometimes articles can’t be read more than once and I don’t want to be accused of ‘distortion’ (though I did trim a bit off the end about earlier in Dr. Carson’s life). Hopefully my experience (down below the quote) will help educate folks about how things work when you score high.

Ben Carson Admits He Was Never Accepted to West Point

A report on Friday said Ben Carson has acknowledged never having applied to the prestigious military academy at West Point, raising questions about his repeated assertions that he had turned down a scholarship to attend.

According to the report, in Politico, West Point had no record of Mr. Carson having applied to the academy. When Politico approached Mr. Carson’s campaign with the information, his campaign manager, Barry Bennett, in a statement, explained Mr. Carson had considered an offer to receive help with an appointment to the academy, but he did not ever apply.

In repeated references to West Point over the years, Mr. Carson has strongly implied that he had a standing offer to attend.

In his statement, Mr. Bennett said, “Dr. Carson was the top R.O.T.C. student in the City of Detroit.”

Referring to Gen. William C. Westmoreland, the Army chief of staff at the time, Mr. Bennett added: “In that role he was invited to meet General Westmoreland. He believes it was at a banquet. He can’t remember with specificity their brief conversation but it centered around Dr. Carson’s performance as R.O.T.C. city executive officer.”

“He was introduced to folks from West Point by his R.O.T.C. supervisors,” Mr. Bennett said. “They told him they could help him get an appointment based on his grades and performance in R.O.T.C. He considered it but in the end did not seek admission.”

Mr. Carson recounted the episode of being offered a scholarship at various points in telling his triumphant personal story. (Technically, West Point does not offer scholarships; it is free to attend.)

In his recent book, “You Have a Brain,” Mr. Carson described how he decided which college to attend: “I still had the scholarship offer from West Point as a result of my R.O.T.C. achievements.”

More recently, in a Facebook post in August responding to a question, he addressed a question about whether he was offered a slot at West Point, writing that he was “thrilled to get an offer from West Point.”

“But I knew medicine is what I wanted to do. So I applied to only one school. (it was all the money I had). I applied to Yale and thank God they accepted me. I often wonder what might have happened had they said no.”

So he WAS top of the list for West Point. He DID meet with some mucky-mucks. They DID try to woo him. It IS “free to attend” so there’s a kind of scholarship aspect to it.

So what this all comes down to is a high school kid being a bit unclear on “you qualify for free” vs “we pay for you”… and exactly what IS the difference?

Now I’m biased in all this in that I have a similar story. I was working at the time, but thought maybe an MBA would be a nice next step. I took the GMAT.

My scores were, er, a bit excessively high… a fellow workmate who was not at all slow had also taken the GRE. She asked to compare scores (on a ‘me first’ basis to me…) and I agree. I told her mine, then she absolutely refused to share hers. Now she had perfectly fine scores, and went into an MBA program. So they were not weak. Only later did I find out what my number really meant.

I was solicited by Wharton School of Business. They sent a letter saying basically, we want you and don’t worry about the money, there are ways to take care of that (and listed several things from scholarships to guraranteed loans). For anyone who doesn’t know, Wharton is a Name School.

But I was making what for me, then, was “big bucks”. I had just ‘met a girl’ (now my wife). It was a $50,000 / year ticket to ride their bus, and a couple of years. So we’re talking cashing out of about $160,000 of income and taking on $100,000 of expenditures AND living expenses (you don’t get through Wharton working 40 hrs / week on the side) and blowing off a promising love.

In theory, I’d make back the money side in about 4 to 5 years out of Wharton as they make big bucks. But the kicker for me was the “dump everything and everyone and move to the other side of the country”. So I declined.

Now, were I to write a book I’d likely put in it that I was invited to Wharton and offered financial aid to do it. But decided no.

You will NOT find an application from me to Wharton. (Though I do think I have the offer letter saved in some old box of mementos in the garage… somewhere).

You will NOT find an offer of financial aid from them (as we didn’t reach the acceptance step).

You will NOT find anyone who remembers this but me.

How is this any different from Dr. Carson’s circumstance?

Basically, when you score high enough, you take a special inside track that has far less formality required in the early stages. SOLICITATION, sometimes in person, and only once you say yes, do they bother with the formal application…

So what is In The News as a “He LIED!!!” story looks a whole lot more to me like a “He was solicited and maybe a kid from the poor side of town didn’t understand all the fine points” story. Confounding a “solicitation and offer of no cost” with a “standing offer and scholarship”.

Sure sounds more like splitting hairs to me.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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21 Responses to Carson and the West Point Story

  1. Larry Ledwick says:

    Pretty much as I figured based on a few minutes of searching. Context and wording make a difference. He could have said “I had the opportunity to go to West Point” but he chose a commonly understood term (ie scholarship ) Not a lie just a different choice of words with the same intended meaning. Good job Politico you have yet again demonstrated you have not a clue about journalism and ethics.

  2. Larry Ledwick says:

    According to a twitter post, Politico just altered the headline and lede to remove the bombshell claims about Carson. Doesn’t note that it made the changes.

  3. philjourdan says:

    Not even splitting hairs. A clear cut case of lying by the press trying to start a meme about Dr. Carson’s integrity. Liberals just cannot stand an uppity N—–. They did it to Cain, but Carson is too clean for them, so they have to lie about it.

    When was the last time you saw an in depth story about Clinton’s lies? Not in the MSM.

  4. Fred from Canuckistan says:

    The slime balls fear him. The more they fear him, the more he will be smeared.

    That cackling sound you hear is Hillary preparing the ground.

  5. p.g.sharrow says:

    Like Annapolis and the Navy, The Army is allowed to include 6 men in a years class. A very high honor indeed. Members of Congress fill the appointments to academie classes, 2 each. These appointments are plums for the children of VIPs, not something wasted on the children of citizens. Carson did the honorable thing and stood aside for another while he pursued his own path. Something that I also did when I entered the Navy…pg

  6. philjourdan says:

    @Fred – the ground? Or the air attack from her broom stick? ;-)

  7. Quail says:

    I still have my invitation to West Point in a box in the garage. Sure wish I could go back in time and make my younger self say, “Yes.”

  8. philjourdan says:

    @Quail – Don’t we all (wish we could change some decisions). ;-)

  9. p.g.sharrow says:

    @phil & Quail; Do not regret the decisions made and acted on. You did the correct thing for your life’s path. Every thing done results in the now as well as the future. I do not regret any action of my 69 years. Often the results were not the ones I desired but they all created the me of now. Sometimes a “poor choice” put me in the right place and time to help a stranger when they needed help the most, at other times it resulted in strangers helping me, some to become valued friends. Life is an adventure, enjoy all of it, good and the not so good. After all, it is a game you PLAY, but can not win……
    “and the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep” the gambler……pg

  10. philjourdan says:

    Wise words P.G. But I will always wonder about the road not taken. You are correct, the bad decisions have put us on the road we are on. But there are still those times…… ;-)

  11. Kent Gatewood says:

    A young man at my church has what is described in the sports section of the Daily Oklahoma as “a scholarship offer from the Navy.”

    I’m assuming that offers of football scholarships from military academies do not require applications to be completed.

    Gabriel Malor at Ace of Spades reproduces a copy of an ad for the Army referencing scholarships.

    Looks like the schools and the young people see that what is being offered is a scholarship even if POLITICO doesn’t.

  12. E.M.Smith says:
    Indicates wharton is now $100k per yr to attend, $70k of it tuition, so inflate my remembrred cost accodingly to get today dollars…

  13. gallopingcamel says:

    Amazing that our “Free” press is blind to the red flags in Obama’s or Hillary’s past, yet they jump all over the slightest feather related to Romney, Trump, Carson or anyone who might be a GOP presidential contender.

  14. gallopingcamel says:

    I think it was Winston Churchill who said:
    “A lie is half way around the world before the truth can get its pants on.”

  15. E.M.Smith says:

    Thanks, Chuckles.

    I’m going to paste some of the text from that article here, just so that a few years from now it isn’t a dead link and long gone…

    Politico Admits Fabricating A Hit Piece On Ben Carson
    Politico’s editorial staff on Friday conceded that entire basis of attack on Carson was invented out of whole cloth.
    NOVEMBER 6, 2015 By Mollie Hemingway
    Politico‘s Kyle Cheney admitted that he fabricated a negative story about Ben Carson. At least, according to his own standards, he admitted the grievous journalistic sin.

    In a story published early on Friday, Politico’s Kyle Cheney authored a piece headlined “Ben Carson admits fabricating West Point scholarship” with a subhed “Carson’s campaign on Friday conceded that a central point in his inspirational personal story did not occur as he previously described.”

    There were at least five major problems with the story:

    The headline was completely false
    The subhed was also completely false
    The opening paragraph was false false false
    The substance of the piece was missing key exonerating information
    The article demonstrated confusion about service academy admissions and benefits
    But other than that, A+++ work, Kyle Cheney and Politico.

    It could take all day to parse the problems with Kyle Cheney’s now-somewhat-cleaned-up hit piece on Carson, but let’s just look at his original introductory claims:

    Ben Carson’s campaign on Friday admitted, in a 
    response to an inquiry from POLITICO, that a 
    central point in his inspirational personal story 
    was fabricated: his application and acceptance 
    into the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. 
    The academy has occupied a central place in 
    Carson’s tale for years. According to a story 
    told in Carson’s book, “Gifted Hands,” the 
    then-17 year old was introduced in 1969 to Gen. 
    William Westmoreland, who had just ended his 
    command of U.S. forces in Vietnam, and the two 
    dined together. That meeting, according to Carson’s 
    telling, was followed by a “full scholarship” to 
    the military academy. West Point, however, has no
    record of Carson applying, much less being extended 
    admission… When presented with this evidence,
    Carson’s campaign conceded the story was false.

    Roughly none of this is true. Ben Carson’s campaign did not “admit” that a central point in his story “was fabricated.” Quite the opposite. The central point of the story is falsely described by Cheney/Politico as being that he applied and was accepted at West Point. Carson, in fact, has repeatedly claimed not to have applied. So any claim regarding the absence of West Point records of such an application would not debunk Carson’s point. And, again, Carson’s campaign never “conceded” the story was false at least in part because the story, as characterized by Politico, is not one he told. Further, Cheney is unable to substantiate his claim that Carson told this story. Nowhere in the article does he even explain, with facts, where he came up with the idea that Carson has ever made this claim.

    also further down, this part is interesting:

    One other quick point to make about Politico and Kyle Cheney’s piece. The original story claimed that Carson also lied by claiming he was offered a full scholarship to West Point since the service academy is entirely taxpayer funded. Or, as Politico put it: “indeed there are no ‘full scholarships,’ per se.” The only problem with this is that the academy itself describes this benefit as a “full scholarship.”

    Ben Carson was a brilliant student who had already shown an interest in the military and had demonstrated leadership skills. It would be weirder if West Point hadn’t tried to recruit him than tried to recruit him. This doesn’t happen to us journalists, for obvious reasons, but exceptional students are recruited by top colleges and universities all the time.

    The quoted “full scholarship” linking to someone tweet or twitter thing; but I don’t do the Twit thing ;-) so don’t know what’s in it…

  16. Larry Ledwick says:

    There are a couple tweets, one is the following comment:
    Also, taking “fabrication” out of that headline is like taking uranium out of an A-bomb.

    — daveweigel (@daveweigel) November 6, 2015

    The second is an image at :

    I just sent a screen cap of that image to your email under subject line tweets on carson

  17. Larry Ledwick says:

    Hmm word press sterilized the direct twitter link but it looked a lot like this with the appropriate transformations:

    https_semicolon then 2 slashes followed by twitter(dot)com/DylanByers/status/662751698738253824

  18. Larry Ledwick says:

    Ben Carson calling out the media for not vetting Obama as a counter point to their perpetuating the Politico hit piece lie.

  19. E.M.Smith says:

    I’m just a bit pissed at Fox News.

    On Fox Business some guy named Zimmerman titled a “Democratic Strategist” was pontificating about Carson and stated that he had “fabricated his past”. Running with the talking point fraud that Dr. Carson lied.

    Not one peep from The Redhead (Liz Clayman) of challenge or rebuttal.

    This from a supposedly ‘unbiased’ news source and ‘conservative’ business news.

    It is the 3rd or 4th time I’ve seen just this kind of thing on Fox or Fox Business, including in their news crawler where IT claimed Carson had lied about his past (repeating the ‘hot news’ of the first or 2nd day without vetting it, clearly as I found that ‘liar’ claim was bogus in about 10 minutes…)

    Fox is aiding and abetting the slander of Dr. Carson by letting The Big Lie be repeated and, by silence, endorsed by Fox. I find it distressing to say the least.

    Just who CAN you trust when even Fox lets the lie run free and the Real Big Profession Liars have free run of their forum.

  20. Larry Ledwick says:

    Sins of omission can be worse than sins of commission because they end up being silent sins which slowly seep into the consciousness of the public but with no specific point of reference to trace them back to their origin.

    This is why the major axiom of propaganda is to keep repeating the lie, eventually it will be come “common knowledge” even though it is untrue. Indoctrination by propaganda is insidious and so dangerous because it is very difficult to point out the error when folks have heard the same assertion dozens or hundreds of times from people they trust.

    I agree I get so steamed watching things like that go unchallenged, which is exactly the point that Carson was making the other day when he called out that reporter by finally stopping the discussion and bluntly telling the reporter to “stop lying!”
    It was funny how the media the press conference suddenly went quiet when they realized he had boldly in their face challenged them for asserting known errors as if they were valid questions, then confronted them on all the times they dropped the ball on Obama and his records.

    The general public is finally beginning to get like the old Soviets most of us know full well we are being served a crap sandwich, and are starting to discount the messengers how try to sell those bogus talking points.

    The media has not except for a very few like Cheryl Atchison really ask the hard questions. Most of them have no clue that they are destroying the one thing a journalist needs which is credibility. With out that they are just another talking head easily ignored.

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