UPDATE: Doug Watts, Ben Carson’s communications director, contends that Carson didn’t lie, and that his admission offer he received to attend West Point was made informally by his high school ROTC leader:
He does not write in the book that he applied to the school. Students who are accepted to West Point, a U.S. Military Academy, do not pay tuition. The Politico story claimed that Carson had “fabricated” his “application and acceptance” into the U.S. Military Academy.
“The Politico story is an outright lie,” Watts wrote in a statement. “Dr. Carson as the leading ROTC student in Detroit was told by his commanders that he could get an Appointment at the academy. He never said he was admitted or even applied.”
In his book Gifted Hands, Ben Carson tells an uplifting story about how, in 1969, he was offered a “full scholarship” to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point after having dinner with Gen. William Westmoreland. However, after Politico looked into the claim, Carson’s campaign has confessed that the story is a fabrication:
West Point, however, has no record of Carson applying, much less being extended admission.
“In 1969, those who would have completed the entire process would have received their acceptance letters from the Army Adjutant General,” said Theresa Brinkerhoff, a spokeswoman for the academy. She said West Point has no records that indicate Carson even began the application process. “If he chose to pursue (the application process), then we would have records indicating such,” she said.
When presented with these facts, Carson’s campaign conceded the story was false.
In an email to Politico, Carson’s campaign manager Barry Bennett explained that Carson, who was “the top ROTC student in the City of Detroit,” was “invited to meet General Westmoreland […] at a banquet.” There he was introduced to “folks from West Point” who “told him they could help him get an appointment based on his grades and performance in ROTC.” However, Carson ultimately decided not to seek admission.
Furthermore, there are no “full scholarships” to West Point:
An application to West Point begins with a nomination by a member of Congress or another prominent government or military official. After that, a rigorous vetting process begins. If offered admission, all costs are covered for all students; indeed there are no “full scholarships,” per se.
Bennett contends otherwise:
The statement from Carson’s campaign manager on Friday went on to say: “There are ‘Service Connected’ nominations for stellar High School ROTC appointments. Again he was the top ROTC student in Detroit. I would argue strongly that an Appointment is indeed an amazing full scholarship. Having ran several Congressional Offices I am very familiar with the Nomination process.”
It’s unclear why Carson would have made up something like this; his life story is remarkable enough already without padding it with a fanciful scholarship. If he wants to remain ahead in the polls, his campaign will need to bounce back from this — and fast.