Ben Carson and West Point, another look

Last Friday, after reading a Politico story asserting that Ben Carson’s campaign had admitted that its candidate’s story about applying and being admitted to West Point is untrue, and after checking around the web to see if there was push back against the Politico story, I wrote this post (minus the update and parenthetical note in the second paragraph). In the post, I quoted several paragraphs from Politico’s report and asserted that Carson embellished the West Point story by saying he was admitted.

I went on to speculate about the potential political consequences of this story. In doing so, I wrote: “The fact that Carson lied about being admitted to West Point is almost certain to wreck his presidential bid.”

The push back against Politico’s story began not long after I published my post. Once I learned about it, I immediately recognized that one statement in my original post was in error. I had written: “But now, the Carson campaign has admitted that the candidate’s story about applying and being admitted to West Point is untrue.” (emphasis added) But Carson never said he applied to West Point; to the contrary, his position was that he didn’t — rather he applied only to Yale.

Accordingly, I noted this error.

I also wrote an add-on to the post arguing that the thrust of the Carson campaign’s push back was “unpersuasive.” Comparing Carson’s original (and repeated) claim that he was offered a scholarship by West Point with his campaign’s version of events and what Carson told the New York Times after the flap arose — that folks from West Point said they could help him get an appointment and that “someone like me” could get an appointment — I concluded:

Carson, in short, has mischaracterized what happened in a way that makes things sound more final, and thus more impressive, than they actually were.

I still believe this. As John said that evening, Carson did “overstate his case.”

However, I should have corrected my statement in the original post that Carson lied (and should not have used that word in the first place). Upon reflection, it now seems clear to me that the difference between Carson’s original version of the story and the version that later emerged isn’t large enough to level an accusation of lying. I should have said that Carson exaggerated and I should also have left open the real possibility that the exaggeration was unintentional.

For the same reason, I should have corrected my statement that “Carson felt the need to embellish” the West Point story.

I apologize for not having made these corrections. My original post now includes them.

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