Dr. Ben Carson copped Thursday to changing some of the details in his repeated retelling of the time he tried to stab a friend at age 14, a story that serves as the linchpin in his personal narrative of religious redemption from youthful anger.
Carson has been dogged by questions about his formative years since CNN published an article examining the violent childhood he’s described in his books and speeches. CNN spoke to nine people who grew up with or attended school with the retired neurosurgeon and was unable to corroborate four specific incidents of violence Carson has described, including the attempted stabbing of a friend Carson called Bob when he was in the ninth grade.
Carson told reporters Thursday in Fort Lauderdale, Florida that he used “fictitious” names for the victims of his juvenile anger.
“I don’t like to generally bring them in,” he said, as quoted by CNN. “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.”
He then divulged a little more information about “Bob,” whom he’s previously said was a friend, in a Thursday night interview with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly. Carson said that “Bob,” which is not the victim’s real name, actually is a “close relative.”
“The person that I tried to stab I talked to today, said would they want to be revealed. They were not anxious to be revealed,” he said. “It was a close relative of mine and I didn’t want to put their lives under the spotlight.”
Carson asserted that his recollection of those youthful outbursts of violence was still “absolutely true” and dismissed CNN’s article as a “smear.”
“Do you think I’m a pathological liar, like CNN does, or do you think I’m an honest person?” Carson said. “I’m going to leave it up to the American people to make that decision.”
After bashing the network for the better part of a day, Carson phoned in Friday morning to CNN’s “New Day” and reiterated that he believed the network had spoken with people who didn’t know him until after he had a religious experience that allowed him to overcome his anger issues.
“This is a bunch of lies,” the retired neurosurgeon told host Alisyn Camerota. “It’s a bunch of lies. Attempting to say that I’m lying about my history. I think it’s pathetic.”
“If you choose to believe that I’m incapable of these acts, I guess that’s kind of a compliment to me,” he later added.
Watch the CNN interview below: