WASHINGTON — Ben Carson slammed CNN’s reporting into his past as a “bunch of lies” in a combative interview on Friday.
“This is a bunch of lies, that is what it is,” Carson said on CNN’s “New Day” when Alisyn Camerota asked about the report by Scott Glover and Maeve Reston in which they spoke to people Carson grew up with. “This is a bunch of lies attempting to say I’m lying about my history, I think it’s pathetic, and basically what the media does is they try to get you distracted.”
Later that day, Politico published a story that Carson fabricated his story of having been offered — and having rejected– a scholarship to the storied West Point military academy.
Carson’s campaign told Politico that while Carson was a top ROTC student and met with Gen. William Westmoreland, he didn’t pursue admittance to West Point.
CNN has not been able to verify the report.
On “New Day,” Camerota pushed back on Carson’s argument that the reporters on the CNN story did not talk to people who knew him earlier than high school, but Carson rejected that and launched into an aggressive attack on the media. He also accused the media of not doing the same with Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama.
“The vetting that you all did with President Obama doesn’t even come close, doesn’t even come close to what you guys are trying to do in my case, and you’re just going to keep going back, ‘He said this 12 years ago’ — it is just garbage,” Carson said. “Give me a break.”
The two journalists repeatedly approached the Carson campaign during their reporting and again before publication of the story. But the campaign staff declined to comment or to assist them in locating classmate or victims of violence who could provide insights about Carson’s past.
On “New Day,” Carson did not explain what aspects of the story he feels are incorrect.
Carson’s personal narrative — a centerpiece of his campaign and star power — has long revolved around his accounts of his violent past and descriptions of the healing powers of his faith.
Glover and Reston spoke with nine friends, classmates and neighbors who grew up with Carson, and none had any memory of the anger or violence the candidate has described.
CNN’s story pointed out that none of the people interviewed challenged the veracity of his accounts, but said they were surprised at them and did not reflect the youth that they knew.
Carson has had a shifting explanation of why the stories cannot be corroborated since CNN published its findings on Thursday morning.
At first, he said CNN spoke only with people who knew him after his temper changed, but when he was informed that some of the interviewees knew him going back to elementary school and his early childhood, he said the incidents were private and that’s why others weren’t aware of them. He then returned to the earlier line Friday on CNN.
He also told reporters late Thursday that the names “Bob” and “Jerry” used in his book to detail the victims of the incidents were fictitious.
“I don’t like to generally bring them in, the names I used for instance are fictitious names because I don’t want to bring people into something like this because I know what you guys do to their lives,” Carson told reporters in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
Carson maintained Bob is a real person on Friday, saying he doesn’t want to reveal his identity.
“That’s not the real name, but yes he’s a very real person. I talked to him yesterday,” Carson said. “He was a family member, and you know, I really don’t want to expose him further. I talked to him, he would prefer to stay off of the media, and I think I want to respect that.”
In the chapters of Carson’s 1990 autobiography that describe the violent incidents involving Bob and Jerry, there’s no note or indication to alert the reader that the names were fictitious.
In an interview Thursday with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, he added that the person he tried to stab during his youth was a “close relative.” He had previously identified the person as a classmate.
He also called the CNN report a “smear campaign.”
“I would say to the people of America, do you think I’m a pathological liar like CNN does? Or do you think I’m an honest person? And I’m going to leave that up to the American people to make that decision,” Carson said on Fox.
He maintained throughout the day Thursday under repeated questions that reporters shouldn’t expect to find people who recall the outbursts — and that he won’t expose them.
“Why would anybody know about, you know, private incidents like that? You know, I was generally a nice person, it’s just that I had a very bad temper,” Carson told CNN at a lunchtime book signing. “So unless you were the victim of that temper, why would you know? Just because you happened to know me? That doesn’t make any sense.”