By Ginger Gibson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson’s campaign on Friday acknowledged he never applied nor was accepted to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point — a tale he included in his autobiography and that he has repeated since then, POLITICO reported on Friday.
The details of a scholarship were included in Carson’s account of a meeting with General William Westmoreland in 1969 when Carson was a high school student in the ROTC program, which provides preliminary military training for students interested in becoming officers.
“He was introduced to folks from West Point by his ROTC supervisors,” campaign manager Barry Bennett told POLITICO in an email. “They told him they could help him get an appointment based on his grades and performance in ROTC. He considered it but in the end did not seek admission.”
That differs from the text of Carson’s 1990 autobiography, Gifted Hands, in which he wrote that he dined with Westmoreland and that “Later I was offered a full scholarship to West Point.”
Rival Donald Trump, who Carson is neck-and-neck with for the top spot in the Republican presidential primary polls, quickly took to Twitter to attack the retired neurosurgeon.
“WOW, one of many lies by Ben Carson! Big story,” Trump wrote and included a link to the article in which Carson’s campaign acknowledged the fabrication.
The revelation came only hours after Carson attacked the media for what he called a “bunch of lies” as he faced questions on Friday about his accounts of his violent past.
Carson, who is popular with evangelical voters, often speaks on the campaign trail about his flashes of violence during his youth, casting the lessons he learned from that period as evidence he has the strength of character to be president.
In his autobiography, the renowned brain surgeon wrote that as a teen, he tried to stab a friend named Bob in the stomach with a knife but was stopped by the boy’s belt buckle.
On Thursday on the campaign trail, when pressed by reporters about the incident and also in an interview with Fox News, Carson said that Bob’s name, along with some other names in the autobiography, were pseudonyms that he used to protect the privacy of the people he was writing about.
He described Bob in the book as a friend and classmate. In the Fox News interview and on CNN, Carson said the boy was a “close relative.”
(Reporting by Ginger Gibson; Editing by Howard Goller and Bill Rigby)
Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson speaks at the 2016 U.S. Republican presidential candidates debate held by CNBC in Boulder, Colorado, October 28, 2015. REUTERS/Rick Wilking