Ben Carson and the media

Wednesday's Example of Media Bias   —   Posted on November 11, 2015

Last week CNN “raised questions” about Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson’s claims of childhood rage episodes by interviewing people who didn’t know Carson at the time of the alleged incidents, weren’t put forth as witnesses, and didn’t contradict his story. In fact, despite their distance from Carson and from the decades of time past, one of these individuals even corroborated Carson’s account – claiming he or she heard “rumors” of a now-famous stabbing incident.

On Friday, Politico destroyed its credibility by boldly declaring that Carson “fabricated” a claim that he’d never made – that he’d applied to and been accepted for admission at West Point. [The Politico headline went from “Ben Carson Admits Fabricating West Point Scholarship,” which was false, to “Carson claimed West Point ‘scholarship’ but never applied,” which is true but not news. Carson never claimed he applied.]

Then, this weekend, the Wall Street Journal got into the act, this time “raising questions” abut a number of incidents from Carson’s biography. First, questioning Carson’s claims about sheltering white students from a riot in a biology lab, it interviewed a physics teacher and students who didn’t claim to be in the biology lab. (They all corroborated the existence of the riot.) Next up: The Journal questions Carson’s English grades by questioning his history professor?  …

So, for those keeping score, days of media hits on decades-old incidents revealed, at most, utterly trivial contradictions (a dinner Carson thought happened in May really occurred in a different month; a psychology-class incident may have occurred his freshman year, not his junior year) while backing up the core assertions. Yes, there was a hoax exam. Yes, a person from Detroit heard of the Carson stabbing incident. Yes, there was a riot at his school. In the meantime, all this digging has not yielded a single person to contradict the primary elements of his stories. Not one.

This isn’t investigative journalism. It’s a clown show. To “raise questions” about incidents that occurred more than 40 years ago, one does not interview people who weren’t involved and weren’t there. Maybe it’s a scoop if CNN found the person who argued with Carson and says that Carson pushed him and didn’t try to stab him. Maybe it’s a scoop if Politico interviews someone who heard military officials talk to Carson about West Point and plainly heard that they made no offers of “scholarships” or any other enthusiastic expressions about his chances for admission. Maybe it’s a scoop if the Wall Street Journal found someone who was in the biology lab the night of the riot and says Carson was nowhere to be found.

But the media’s “investigative” standard here is strange, indeed – actual corroboration of Carson’s account followed by no meaningful contradiction does not “raise questions” about Carson’s honesty.

…there is a difference between scandal and slander. So far there is no Carson scandal, and everyone who uses the “reporting” of the last week to justify accusations of dishonesty is verging on slander. … (from a Nov. 9 post by David French at National Review)