WASHINGTON — Republican Presidential candidate Ben Carson said that he’s facing an unprecedented level of scrutiny about the veracity of his life story and questioned whether the issues dogging him over his autobiography are important to the nation’s search for the next president.
“Every single day, every other day or every week, you know, they’re going to come out with, ‘Well, you said this when you were 13,'” the retired neurosurgeon said on CBS’ Face the Nation.
“The whole point is to distract the populace, to distract me,” Carson added. “If you’ve got a real scandal, if you’ve got something that’s really important, let’s talk about that.”
Moving on, at least in the short term, is unlikely. The accuracy of Carson’s autobiography has dominated his campaign in the past few days, and there are likely to be more questions asked Nov. 10 during the next Republican Presidential debate.
The scrutiny reflects Carson’s transformation from political outsider to the top of the polls in the unsettled nomination fight, second only to billionaire developer Donald Trump. And in early voting Iowa, some polls show Carson’s leading.
Carson insists no other candidate has received the level of scrutiny that he has. Asked on NBC whether he is getting more than President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton, Carson replied: “Not like this. Not even close.”
Carson is a newcomer to Presidential politics, so much about his life, career and published works are being raked over for the first time, and his longtime status as an American success story examined. Carson strongly disputed that there was any dishonesty intended.
“Gifted Hands” is central to much of the scrutiny. It tells the story of Carson’s rise from a childhood in inner city Detroit to becoming the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
In it, he tells of trying to stab a close friend when he was a teenager. CNN reported it could not find friends or confidants to corroborate that story.
Politico published a piece examining Carson’s claim of receiving a scholarship offer to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The Wall Street Journal said it could not confirm Carson anecdotes from his high school and college years.
The Academy does not offer scholarships, instead extending all expenses paid to students it admits. Carson never applied for admission.
Last month, police in Baltimore said they didn’t have enough information to verify Carson’s account of being held at gunpoint more than 30 years ago at a fast-food restaurant in the city.
In the third Republican debate, Carson said it was “absolutely absurd” to say he had a formal relationship with the nutritional supplement company Mannatech. He is featured in the company’s videos, including one from last year in which he credits the firm’s supplements with helping people restore a healthy diet.