NBC Boosts Politico's Retracted 'Fabrication' Headline on Carson's West Point Claim

On Friday's NBC Nightly News, Chris Jansing touted Politico's scoop about Dr. Ben Carson's "scholarship" claim about West Point, underlining how the liberal outlet "call[ed] Carson's story a 'fabrication.'" However, Jansing's report aired more than two hours after Politico removed the "fabrication" term" from their headline." The journalist later hyped that it's "hard to overstate how much Carson uses his personal story to connect with voters — so this heightened scrutiny...may be a very big threat to his campaign." [video below]

Anchor Lester Holt teased Jansing's segment by trumpeting "a new firestorm today over claims the Republican front-runner has made about his life story." The correspondent first pointed out the "key moment in Ben Carson's life story — one that brought him from best-selling author to in-demand speaker; and now, presidential candidate." The correspondent dropped her reference to Politico's now-retracted headline word after playing a clip of Dr. Carson repeating his West Point claim on Charlie Rose's PBS program:

DR. BEN CARSON, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (from PBS's Charlie Rose): I was offered a full scholarship to West Point; got to meet General Westmoreland; go to Congressional Medal of Honor dinners.

JANSING: Politico reported today that West Point has no records of Carson applying or being offered admission — calling Carson's story a 'fabrication.'

Moments later, Jansing added that "Carson admits it didn't happen exactly the way he described it — telling the New York Times, 'It was, you know, an informal with a record like yours, we could easily get you a scholarship to West Point.'" She continued by underlining that "no one can simply offer admission to West Point, which has a famously rigorous application process and low acceptance rate."

The NBC correspondent also highlighted that "Carson's campaign now admits he was wrong about when he met General Westmoreland. NBC has obtained Westmoreland's own records showing him in Washington then." Her report included still images of the former neurosurgeon making strange expressions (see still in the video above), as she underlined that the West Point issue was "one of several stories coming under intense scrutiny." Jansing concluded her report with her "very big threat" phrase.

ABC's World News Tonight and CBS Evening News included the same soundbite from Carson's appearance on Charlie Rose's PBS program. ABC correspondent Tom Llamas didn't mention Politico by name during his full report, but noted that "Carson's campaign confirming tonight to ABC News that not only was he never admitted to West Point, he never even applied." Anchor David Muir also turned to White House correspondent Jonathan Karl, who emphasized that "central to Ben Carson's appeal is that he is seen as honest and trustworthy by a vast majority of Republican voters — in fact, more than any other candidate. If these questions cause voters to see him as less honest, his support could be drop dramatically."

On CBS Evening News, correspondent Nancy Cordes actually interviewed Dr. Carson via phone — something that Jansing and Llamas didn't do. She asked the Republican presidential candidate, "Do you think that you have been choosing your words on this issue improperly?" Carson replied, "I don't think so — no. I think there are a lot of people who would like to try to characterize it that way, because they want to...try to character-assassinate someone."

Cordes ended her report by underlining that "the problem with these inconsistencies is that Carson's unique life story is what put him in the public eye in the first place, and led him eventually to seek the presidency."

The full transcripts of the reports on Dr. Ben Carson from the Big Three's evening newscasts on November 6, 2015:

11/06/2015
07:06 pm EST
NBC Nightly News

LESTER HOLT: Let's turn to politics now, and new questions about some of the claims that Dr. Ben Carson has made — specifically, some events he has said took place when he was a young man. The questions come as the candidate faces more intense scrutiny, now that some polls put him in the lead among Republicans.

We get more from NBC's Chris Jansing.

CHRIS JANSING (voice-over): It's a key moment in Ben Carson's life story — one that brought him from best-selling author to in-demand speaker; and now, presidential candidate.

DR. BEN CARSON, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (from PBS's Charlie Rose): I was offered a full scholarship to West Point; got to meet General Westmoreland; go to Congressional Medal of Honor dinners.

JANSING: Politico reported today that West Point has no records of Carson applying or being offered admission — calling Carson's story a 'fabrication.' His campaign fired back.

BARRY BENNETT, CARSON CAMPAIGN MANAGER (from MSNBC's MTP Daily): This book was written two — two and half decades ago — you know? Would I love to freshen it up? Maybe; I don't know. But, you know, it's — it is all accurate. I mean, the words are not precise sometimes, but it's all accurate. It's not made up.

JANSING: Still, Carson admits it didn't happen exactly the way he described it — telling the New York Times, 'It was, you know, an informal with a record like yours, we could easily get you a scholarship to West Point.'

In fact, no one can simply offer admission to West Point, which has a famously rigorous application process and low acceptance rate.

COLONEL JACK JACOBS (RET.), NBC NEWS MILITARY ANALYST: Nobody uses the term 'scholarship' to West Point. There isn't such a thing, and nobody in the military would use that term.

JANSING: And Carson's campaign now admits he was wrong about when he met General Westmoreland. NBC has obtained Westmoreland's own records showing him in Washington then. This now one of several stories coming under intense scrutiny—

CARSON: That's very silly—

JANSING: Including questions about his claims he had a violent temper when he was young. Now, the famously low-key Carson has launched an emphatic defense.

CARSON (from CNN's New Day): A bunch of lies, attempting — you know, to say that I'm lying about my history. I think it's pathetic.

JANSING: All of it fodder for opponents. Donald Trump quickly Tweeting, 'Wow, one of many lies by Ben Carson! Big story.'

But will these questions about his past impact his future political prospects?

PROFESSOR DAVID LUBLIN, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: It may limit his ability to gain more in the future with other voters who might no longer be open to his candidacy, but were before this occurred.

JANSING (on-camera): Tonight, campaign senior staff tell me, first, they were angry about today's story; now, they're gearing up to defend Carson's integrity. Hard to overstate how much Carson uses his personal story to connect with voters — so this heightened scrutiny, Lester, may be a very big threat to his campaign.

HOLT: All right. Chris, thank you.


11/06/2015
06:31 pm EST
ABC — World News Tonight

DAVID MUIR: And we begin with the firestorm over Dr. Ben Carson and his claim he had been offered a scholarship to West Point. Tonight, he is now explaining himself. Of course, several national polls now showing Carson at the top of the Republican field; and with that, increased scrutiny. Carson's campaign saying about his story of getting a scholarship, maybe the words were inaccurate, but they maintain Carson was told he would gain acceptance. Tonight, we asked West Point how the process works.

ABC's Tom Llamas on Carson’s explanation, and on Donald Trump, who pounced on this and quickly.

TOM LLAMAS (voice-over): Tonight, Dr. Ben Carson, forced to explain himself after accusations part of his story don't add up. Carson has repeatedly said he was offered a scholarship to West Point as recently as a month ago on PBS.

DR. BEN CARSON, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (from PBS's Charlie Rose): I was offered a full scholarship to West Point; got to meet General Westmoreland; go to Congressional Medal of Honor dinners.

LLAMAS: The West Point scholarship was something he's written about in his books. Carson's campaign confirming tonight to ABC News that not only was he never admitted to West Point, he never even applied. And about that scholarship? Telling us, 'Maybe the words are inaccurate,' but that as a top ROTC student in Detroit, Carson was told he would gain acceptance by West Point officials, and that was 'in effect, getting a scholarship because nobody pays a dime.'

West Point says they can't confirm or deny whether he was ever told that, but they did say, 'The admissions process is a multi-step process. A verbal offer of admission alone would never be enough to guarantee entry.'

Late today, Carson was asked if he regretted saying it was a scholarship.

CARSON (from CBN's The Brody File): That was the way it was presented to me. I understand that the way West Point works now is — you know, through a different mechanism. But that's the way it was presented to me.

LLAMAS: This latest revelation as Carson is under fire for other alleged discrepancies about his story. For example, that he was violent when he was young.

CARSON: And at age 14, another teenager angered me, and I had large camping knife, and I tried to stab him in the abdomen. And fortunately, under his clothing, he had on a large metal belt buckle, and the knife blade struck with such force that it broke and he fled in terror.

LLAMAS: Carson has said that's when he rejected anger, and started to give his life to God. And he is now lashing out at the media for questioning his claims.

CARSON (from CNN's New Day): This is a bunch of lies. This is what it is — a bunch of lies, attempting — you know, to say that I'm lying about my history. I think it's pathetic.

LLAMAS (live): One of his rivals seizing on the controversy, Donald Trump, in rehearsals today for his appearance on SNL this weekend — slamming Carson on social media, re-Tweeting a news story and adding: 'Wow, one of many lies by Ben Carson! Big story.' David, according to Carson, there are bigger factors at play. Tonight, he says a secular progressive movement is threatened by him, and that his words are being taken out of context. David?

MUIR: Tom Llamas leading us off on a Friday night. Tom, thank you.

I want to bring ABC's chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl now; because, Jon, it would appear, at this point, that this comes down to conversations Carson says West Point officials — recruiters had with him and whether that constitutes a scholarship. Voters will have to decide on this one.

JONATHAN KARL: That's right. And remember, central to Ben Carson's appeal is that he is seen as honest and trustworthy by a vast majority of Republican voters — in fact, more than any other candidate. If these questions cause voters to see him as less honest, his support could be drop dramatically. But remember: nobody is questioning that he was recruited at West Point, and would have been a great candidate. Ultimately, he went to Yale instead. And David, as for supporters, they are rallying around him on this, saying that he — at least for now, they are saying he's being vilified.

MUIR: Sticking by him — all right. Jon Karl live at the White House — Jon, thank you.


11/06/2015
06:34 pm EST
CBS Evening News

SCOTT PELLEY: In another important story tonight, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson had to revise part of his life story: a claim that he turned down a scholarship to West Point. The latest poll has Carson neck and neck with Donald Trump; Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz in third and fourth.

Here's Nancy Cordes.

DR. BEN CARSON, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (from campaign event): I just always wanted to be a doctor.

NANCY CORDES (voice-over): Carson told the West Point tale in his autobiography, and dozens of times since: 'I was offered a full scholarship to West Point,' he wrote — repeating those very words with Charlie Rose last month.

CARSON (from PBS's Charlie Rose): I was offered a full scholarship to West Point; got to meet General Westmoreland; go to Congressional Medal of Honor dinners — but decided, really, my pathway would be medicine.

CORDES: The story was meant to illustrate his rise from impoverished kid to renowned neurosurgeon. The trouble is the U.S. Military Academy does not offer scholarships. Tuition is free, in exchange for military service.

CORDES (on-camera): You now acknowledge that you didn't actually get an offer because you didn't apply.

CARSON (via phone): Well, I think that's a matter of semantics. It is — it is an offer if they say, 'We can get you into West Point, and it will be free for you.' That's an offer.

CORDES: Okay—

CARSON: That's not a non-offer.

CORDES: Do you think that you have been choosing your words on this issue improperly?

CARSON: I don't think so — no. I think there are a lot of people who would like to try to characterize it that way, because they want to — you know, try to character-assassinate someone.

CARSON (from Fox News Channel's The Kelly File): Do you think I'm a pathological liar, like CNN does?

CORDES (voice-over): Carson is also under scrutiny for his longtime claim that he overcame a — quote, 'pathological temper' in his youth.

CARSON: The stabbing — attempted stabbing incident occurred when I was 13 or 14. The — what's another incident? Give me another one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: (off-camera): The punching—

CARSON: Trying to hit my mother in the head with a hammer — that was around the same time as the stabbing incident.

CORDES: But when CNN reached out to Carson's childhood friends, none could recall a violent side — prompting this reaction from Carson's rival, Donald Trump.
    
DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (from Fox Business Network interview): The is the first time in the history of the world where a politician is running on the basis that he tried to stab, and some people are saying he's not credible — okay?

CORDES (live): Carson once said his temper problem was known far and wide. But now, he says only his victims would have seen it. Scott, the problem with these inconsistencies is that Carson's unique life story is what put him in the public eye in the first place, and led him eventually to seek the presidency.

PELLEY: Nancy Cordes in Washington —thanks, Nance.

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