Ben Carson has seen an intense week of media scrutiny, particularly over a false, now partially corrected story from Politico asserting the Republican candidate's presidential campaign had admitted to “fabricating” a story regarding an offer of a “full scholarship” to go to the military academy West Point.
There are other stories regarding the famed neurosurgeon's life that have drawn heavy fire from the news media. Some of these stories can be found in his 1990 best-selling, ghostwritten biography Gifted Hands.
One of them regards Carson's account of being deemed the “most honest” student in a class at Yale referred to in his book as Perceptions 301, which was not offered at the time he attended the Ivy League school.
Another story under the microscope is his account of a “stabbing attempt” made on a person referred to in Gifted Hands as “Bob,” but whom Carson later clarified as a “close relative” whose identity he is protecting to prevent invasion of privacy.
After a week of intense vetting for the Republican primary candidate, Carson unleashed a heated rebuke of the news media for what he later characterized as a “smear campaign.” Carson said at the press conference:
“I do not remember this level of scrutiny for one president Barack Obama when he was running. In fact, I remember just the opposite.”
This brings up an interesting point: What are cases in the past when President Obama misstated points about his biography, but the media did not cause a national firestorm or characterize him as a pathological liar?
Here are nine cases.
1. “Obama's Staff Corrects WWII Story” (New York Times)
In response to a question at a Memorial Day appearance in New Mexico, Mr. Obama said an uncle helped liberate the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz during World War II. The problem? That story didn’t track with history, considering Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet forces.
2. Selma Birth Connection (Independent Journal)
“[W]hen the president spoke before an audience in Selma back in 2007, Obama credited the civil rights march as the inspiration for his conception. The only problem with that, as conservative pundit Michelle Malkin points out, is that the president was already three years old when the march occurred in 1965.”
3. “Obama Overstates Kennedys' Role in Helping His Father” (Washington Post)
Addressing civil rights activists in Selma, Ala., a year ago, Sen. Barack Obama traced his “very existence” to the generosity of the Kennedy family, which he said paid for his Kenyan father to travel to America on a student scholarship and thus meet his Kansan mother.
The Camelot connection has become part of the mythology surrounding Obama's bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. [...]
It is a touching story — but the key details are either untrue or grossly oversimplified.
4. “Tale of British brutality toward Barack Obama's grandfather probably untrue, book claims” (The Telegraph)
It is a harrowing tale of torture in a colonial prison in Kenya that is said to explain the President's coolness towards Britain and even his removal of Winston Churchill's bust from the Oval Office.
David Maraniss, the author of Mr Obama's most comprehensive biography so far, said five associates of Hussein Onyango Obama doubt he was even jailed. One told him: "People make up stories". [...]
... Maraniss claims that while “incidents of that sort certainly happened”, it “seems unlikely” that Mr Obama's grandfather was one such victim. “Five people who had close connections to Hussein Onyango said they doubted the story or were certain it did not happen,” he wrote in Barack Obama - The Making of the Man.
5. The heroic story of Obama's step-grandfather dying while fighting the Dutch is untrue (New York Times)
Mr. Maraniss attributes some of the differences to the kind of family lore that is often exaggerated. He notes that the story about the death of Mr. Obama’s step-grandfather — allegedly killed while fighting Dutch troops in Indonesia — was “a concocted myth in almost all respects.” Mr. Maraniss writes that he died trying to hang drapes.
6. “Obama Lied About Mother’s Health Insurance Problem” (Commentary)
During the 2008 campaign and throughout the subsequent debate over his health care legislation, President Obama used his mother’s experience as a cancer patient fighting to get coverage to pay for treatment for what her insurer said was a pre-existing condition as an emotional argument to sway skeptics. However, a new book by New York Times reporter Janny Scott has revealed this story appears to be a fabrication.
The Times reports today (in a story buried on page 14 rather than on the front page) that during the course of researching her book, A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother, Scott uncovered correspondence showing “the 1995 dispute concerned a Cigna disability insurance policy and that her actual health insurer had apparently reimbursed most of her medical expenses without argument.” In response to inquiries, “a White House spokesman chose not to dispute either Ms. Scott’s account or Mr. Obama’s memory, while arguing that Mr. Obama’s broader point remained salient.”
7. Obama makes white Occidental College classmate “Regina” into African-American aka “composite girlfriend” (Washington Times)
“During an interview in the Oval Office, Obama acknowledged that, while Genevieve was his New York girlfriend, the description in his memoir was a ‘compression’ of girlfriends, including one who followed Genevieve [Cook] when he lived in Chicago,” Mr. Maraniss wrote in the new biography.
“In ‘Dreams from My Father,’ Obama chose to emphasize a racial chasm that unavoidably separated him from the woman he described as his New York girlfriend,” wrote the author, who interviewed the woman. “None of this happened with Genevieve. She remembered going to the theater only once with Barack, and it was not to see a work by a black playwright.”
Mr. Maraniss said the president acknowledged this scene did not happen with Ms. Cook.
8. President Obama's “improbable love” narrative (Jack Cashill)
In all the talk about David Maraniss’ new book, “Barack Obama: The Story,” the chattering classes seem to have overlooked the most significant of Maraniss’ revelations, namely that the story on which Obama based his 2008 candidacy is “received myth, not the truth.”
“My parents shared not only an improbable love,” said Obama famously in his 2004 Democratic Convention keynote, “they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation.” This concept of multicultural romance shaped his persona and his campaigns. [...]
As Maraniss concedes, these two young people shared very close to nothing. “In the college life of Barack Obama in 1961 and 1962,” writes Maraniss, “as recounted by his friends and acquaintances in Honolulu, there was no Ann; there was no baby.”
Although Maraniss talked to many of Obama Sr.’s friends, none of the credible ones ever so much as saw him with Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham.
9. Obama and his mother not “abandoned” by father in 1963 (Buzzfeed)
It’s in that context that Maraniss corrects a central element of Obama’s own biography, debunking a story that Obama’s mother may well have invented: That she and her son were abandoned in Hawaii in 1963.
“It was his mother who left Hawaii first, a year earlier than his father,” Maraniss writes, confirming a story that had first surfaced in the conservative blogosphere. He suggests that “spousal abuse” prompted her flight back to Seattle.
Obama’s own fairy-tales, meanwhile, run toward Amercan [sic] racial cliché.
At least 38 false accounts of President Obama's life story were documented in just the Maraniss biography, as counted by Buzzfeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith.
Additional falsehoods have been detected in Obama's biographies, many of them apparently designed to further a narrative of overcoming racial adversity and an underprivileged life.
Yet the president has somehow weathered the furious storm of media outrage that attacked him as a “pathological liar.”
Oh, wait. That would be Dr. Ben Carson.