Ben Carson renews attacks on media scrutiny

Story highlights

  • Ben Carson said media scrutiny of his history is helping his presidential campaign
  • Carson lashed out at news organizations that have investigated his youth

(CNN)Ben Carson on Sunday continued to push back against journalists as he criticized recent scrutiny of his descriptions about his youth.

The retired neurosurgeon and Republican presidential contender insisted at a political rally and on three morning news shows that reports about his claims about a violent youth, a Politico report about a scholarship offer to West Point and a story about a Yale class are actually helping his campaign.
    Speaking to reporters after a political rally in Puerto Rico Sunday morning, Carson pushed back on the notion that the scrutiny on his past is "getting under his skin" -- but then launched into an angry and mocking critique of the media coverage this week.
    "It's not particularly getting under my skin, obviously it's helping me," said Carson, who on Saturday thanked a "biased media" for helping him fundraise $3.5 million last week. "But I simply cannot sit still and watch unfairness. I am always going to call that out when I see it."
    On Thursday, CNN's Scott Glover and Maeve Reston reported that nine friends, classmates and neighbors who grew up with Carson could not confirm accounts from his 1990 autobiography "Gifted Hands" of a childhood of violence, including an attempted stabbing and punching a classmate in the face with his hand wrapped around a lock. The next day, Politico published a story claiming that the Carson campaign admitted that he "fabricated" an account of applying and being admitted to West Point -- a headline the outlet later softened.
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    And late Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that it couldn't confirm Carson's account of protecting white students during a race riot back when he was a high school junior or a story involving a psychology exam while at Yale.
    "Obviously, the Politico thing was a hit job, no question about that," Carson said in Puerto Rico. "The kind of investigations that were done, talking to the wrong people. Not going to Wilson Junior High School where the lock incident occurred. But talking to other people and saying, 'See we can't find them' -- I mean this is just stupid, and I mean if our media is no better than investigating than that, it's sick. The Wall Street Journal thing coming out and saying 'there's no such course, obviously this is all fabricated' how come -- with all their tools they can't find it, but we can? That doesn't make any sense, does it?"
    He added: "The burden of proof is not going to be on me to corroborate everything I have ever talked about in my life, because once I start down that road, from now until the election, you're going to be spending your time doing that and we have much more important things to do," Carson said. "You're asking me about something that occurred 50 years ago. And you expect me to have the details about that? Forget about it. It's not going to happen."

    'We know what's going on'

    Carson also appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press," CBS' "Face the Nation" and ABC's "This Week" to rebut the reports.
    "People are seeing through exactly what's going on, and they're getting fired up," Carson said on "Meet the Press." "It's almost an us-versus-them thing. And every place I go, you know -- I go to a book signing, there's a thousand people in line -- 'Please don't let them get to you. Don't give up. We got your back. We know what's going on. We believe you.'"
    Responding to Politico's report about being offered a scholarship to West Point, Carson said on "Face the Nation" that he'd been referring to a conversation with military brass who were impressed by his academic and ROTC achievements and said they could get him into the military academy -- which does not charge tuition.
    "They were very impressed with my incredible rise to city executive officer faster than anyone had ever done that before, and said that, you know, 'Well, we would be able to get you a full scholarship to West Point,'" Carson said.
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    "And I said, 'That's wonderful,'" he continued. "And I was very flattered by that. But I had already determined that I was going to go on to college and on to medical school. So, you know, that's what happened. And that's why I said I was offered that."
    He also said his campaign had successfully dug up a photo published in Yale's student newspaper that The Wall Street Journal said it couldn't find -- and said his campaign would release it soon, verifying an anecdote about a psychology class Carson attended. He did, however, admit he and his co-author had made up the psychology class's number and name.
    "Why could we find it and they could not find it?" Carson asked. "And why do people put this stuff out there to make the accusation to try to make somebody seem dishonest, and then when it is disproven, 'Oh, well, let's talk about this. Oh, well, you said this when you were in kindergarten.' Give me a break. I mean, there's so many important things that need to be talked about."
    He said the reporters who have scrutinized his past would make minor mistakes when recalling the events of four or five decades before.
    "Show me somebody -- even from your business, the media -- who is 100 percent accurate in everything that they say that happened 40 or 50 years ago," Carson said on "This Week." "Please show me that person. I will sit at their knee and I will learn from them."