The Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson sought on Sunday to brush away growing questions about the accuracy of his autobiographical statements , implying it was not possible to be “100% accurate” when recalling events from recent history and instead blaming journalists for what he called a “political hit job”.
Carson, a retired pediatric neurosurgeon who is neck and neck with Donald Trump at the top of the polls, has experienced a torrid week as numerous inconsistencies in his 1992 autobiography, Gifted Hands, have been uncovered by reporters.
Asked on ABC if he believed he needed to be more precise in documenting his past, Carson said: “Show me somebody … who is 100% accurate in everything that they say happened 40 or 50 years ago. Please show me that person, because I will sit at their knees and I will learn from them.”
The appearance followed revelations published by the Wall Street Journal on Saturday and relating to Carson’s time at Yale University, where he has claimed to have been recognised by a psychology professor as “the most honest student in class”.
Carson wrote in Gifted Hands that the professor, who taught a class called Perceptions 301, had pulled a hoax on his 150 students by pretending they all had to re-sit a final exam because their papers had “inadvertently burned”.
According to Carson, every student apart from him refused to retake the exam. Once the prank was revealed, he wrote, the professor presented Carson with $10 as a reward for his honesty, and an article about the incident was published in the the Yale Daily News .
According to the Wall Street Journal, no such article appears in the archives of the campus newspaper and Yale has no record of any such class being taught.
Carson rejected this on Sunday, saying he had a copy of the newspaper article he planned to publish in the coming days. He did, however, concede that the name of the class may have been recorded incorrectly.
“I wonder why, with all their investigative abilities, [the Wall Street Journal] can’t find it,” Carson said of the article.
Carson also disputed the Journal’s reporting of an incident relating to his time in high school in Detroit, in which he has claimed to have offered shelter to a group of white students inside the school’s biology lab during race riots following the death of Martin Luther King in 1968.
The Journal interviewed six of Carson’s fellow students at Southwestern high, along with his physics teacher from the time. None could remember being offered sanctuary in the lab, although they did recall the riots.
Carson told NBC on Sunday none of the students interviewed had been those offered sanctuary.
“Why would they know about that, unless they were one of those students?” he asked, adding that he believed others might come forward to confirm the story.
The Journal’s report was the latest in a damaging set of revelations, tied to Carson’s past, which have allowed political rivals to question his integrity. He told NBC such media attention was applied to him because he represented “a threat to the secular progressive movement”.
On Sunday, Trump argued that Carson was “going to have to explain a lot of things away”, relating to a his claim to have been offered a scholarship to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.
Carson was forced on to the defensive on Friday, after a report was published by the website Politico pointing out that West Point does not offer scholarships per se.
In Gifted Hands, Carson wrote that he was offered a scholarship to West Point by General William Westmoreland in 1969, following an impressive performance in a reserve officers training corps programme run by his high school.
On ABC, Carson dismissed Trump’s comments and maintained he had been offered the scholarship but had ended up not applying for entry.
“None of the things are lies,” he said. “What does it say about people who immediately jump on the bandwagon if they hear something bad? Rather than waiting and finding out what the truth is.”
Carson’s personal journey, from poverty in Detroit to prominence as a pioneering neurosurgeon and recipient of the presidential medal of freedom, forms the backbone of his campaign as a candidate with no formal political record to draw on.
Asked if any of the revelations this week had affected his campaign plans, Carson said: “Our campaign is the same: We tell the truth, we deal with the issues and I’m not a politician.
“You’re not going to find me acting like a politician. I don’t do that.”
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