Wednesday 21 August 2019

Carson's US campaign trail falters as string of 'untruths' revealed

Republican candidates tend to present their lives as a series of parables befitting the highest office - but most mortals rarely attain that level of all-round perfection

Pressure is on: Ben Carson
Pressure is on: Ben Carson

David Lawler

The campaign of the Republican presidential frontrunner Ben Carson looked in jeopardy last night after he was hit by a series of allegations that parts of his life story were exaggerated and others fabricated.

Dr Carson, a retired neurosurgeon and first-time political candidate, described as a "witch hunt" media accusations that he lied about his college education and his violent past.

His rise from troubled, impoverished teenager in Detroit to world-renowned physician and conservative icon has been the subject of several books, a film and countless stump speeches.

But last week, as he overtook Donald Trump in the polls for the first time, the only black candidate's extraordinary story drew closer scrutiny. Digging by observers and US media found discrepancies, inconsistencies and, in the latest revelations, apparent falsifications about crucial episodes in his life.

Earlier in the week, CNN published a report casting doubt on Dr Carson's characterisation of himself as a violent 14-year-old who once tried to stab a classmate in a fit of misplaced anger, in his 1996 autobiography, Gifted Hands.

The "victim" of the intended stabbing, which Dr Carson said was a seminal moment that led him to God, has never surfaced.

With the heat already on, another damaging story emerged, contending that despite Dr Carson having written that he was offered a "full scholarship" to the hallowed West Point military academy, he never actually applied.

Dr Carson called the former story a "bunch of lies", and said the latter was also dishonest because he never claimed to have applied to West Point but had been given what he took to be a verbal offer of admission.

"There is a desperation on the part of some to try and find a way to tarnish me," Dr Carson declared.

The controversy did not end there, however. Another article suggested that Dr Carson may have invented a course which he claimed to have excelled in at Yale, and that attempts to corroborate his account of having protected white students during a race riot in Detroit were unsuccessful.

There has also been a steady stream of stories about some of Dr Carson's more unorthodox beliefs, for example that the Pyramids of Giza were built not by ancient Egyptians - but by an Old Testament figure to store grain.

Mr Trump has responded gleefully to the controversies. "The Carson story is either a total fabrication or, if true, even worse!" he said of the claims that Dr Carson had behaved violently as a teenager.

The rumblings about his past could well blunt his poll momentum. Mr Trump and Senator Ted Cruz, a fellow populist Republican candidate who has been gaining traction, could benefit.

Dr Carson reacted to the coverage yesterday with fury, saying he was being subjected to a "witch hunt" to destroy his candidacy.

"What you're not going to find with me is somebody who's just going to sit back and let you be completely unfair without letting the American people know what's going on," he said. "And the American people are waking up to your games.

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