The 4 Types Of Conservative Reactions To Ben Carson’s West Point Fail

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The conservative landscape appeared divided Friday after the Ben Carson campaign admitted that his stories about an offer to attend West Point on a full scholarship were false.

A number of commentators defended the retired neurosurgeon from what they perceived as another hit from the liberal media, and some invoked the reliable bogeymen of the Benghazi attacks in the process. But others saw the admission as a damaging revelation, if not a death knell, for the retired neurosurgeon’s front-of-the-pack campaign.

Politico on Friday reported that West Point has no record of Carson ever applying or being extended an offer to the school. The U.S. military covers covers the costs of admission for all students, as well, so not even late Gen. William Westmoreland could have offered the young ROTC officer a “full scholarship,” as Carson claimed.

“He was introduced to folks from West Point by his ROTC Supervisors,” campaign manager Barry Bennett told Politico. “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.”

Blaming the media

Businessman and former presidential candidate Herman Cain seemed to think Politico’s article amounted to a hit piece. And he wasn’t alone:

Some journalists and commentators deflected the conversation to examples where they believed the media gave Democratic politicians a pass on their past statements:

A number of writers also took issue with the language used in Politico’s scoop. They doubted that Carson ever specifically said that he submitted an application to West Point, as the article stated. That semantic distinction doesn’t take into account the offer of a “full scholarship,” however.

But Benghazi!

Naturally, there were those who believed Carson’s West Point fabrication was nothing compared to Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s “lies” about the 2012 Benghazi attacks.

He’s toast

A number of conservative media figures agreed that the Politico scoop would create trouble for the Carson campaign. The retired neurosurgeon had already come under scrutiny from CNN, which was was unable to corroborate stories the candidate told about the violent outbursts he had as a youth. Carson copped Thursday to changing some of the details in those stories, particularly the time he attempted to stab a friend in the ninth grade.

The U-turn

Breitbart’s John Nolte was quick to say that he wouldn’t defend Carson in this instance:

However, Nolte deleted that tweet after other conservative writers contested the language and framing of Politico’s story.

Conservative pundit Erick Erickson, too, backed off a column he wrote about the West Point story titled “The Beginning of Ben Carson’s End.”

“Carson’s life story has been a central point of his appeal and the West Point story has been part of that appeal,” Erickson wrote. “If the other campaigns and the media can go after Carson on trust, his campaign is finished.”

He later retitled the column “Hitting the Brakes on the Ben Carson Story” and argued the retired neurosurgeon “has more wiggle room on this story than the Politico suggested.” Erickson also wrote that Carson’s book didn’t claim he “applied and was accepted” to West Point.

This post has been updated.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at catherine@talkingpointsmemo.com.

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