WASHINGTON - Republican presidential hopeful and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, whose vivid personal narrative has helped put him at the top of the polls, is facing questions about it that have the potential to chip away at his credibility.
Media reports Friday questioned whether Carson had, in fact, received a full scholarship to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and those reports came only hours after Carson had to defend himself against questions about other details from his past.
West Point is at the center of Carson’s story, both when he tells it orally and in books he has written. Carson wrote in Gifted Hands that the West Point offer was the culmination of a personal turnaround that had him enrolling in the Reserve Officer Training Corps and meeting with famous Army General William Westmoreland.
“I had dinner with him and the Congressional Medal winners,” Carson wrote. “Later, I was offered a full scholarship to West Point.”
But Carson’s campaign conceded Friday that he never applied to the military academy, something he would have had to do in order to be offered a scholarship. And Carson himself acknowledged in an interview with The New York Times that the offer was "informal."
"It was, you know, an informal 'with a record like yours we could easily get you a scholarship to West Point,' " he told the Times.
No ‘laughing matter’
“IS CARSON HALLUCINATING? NOW LIES ABOUT WESTPOINT?” tweeted opponent Donald Trump, who is virtually tied in the polls with Carson.
But Trump was at the center of his own controversy this week as he prepared to host the late night television show "Saturday Night Live."
Only eight other politicians have ever hosted the popular show, and Trump has bragged that his appearance will send it into the ratings stratosphere.
But in the run-up to the show, Trump's hosting has generated outrage on the part of people who believe that his politics are damaging. Wednesday, a group of activists protested in front of the headquarters of the NBC television network, asking it to “Dump Trump” because of his stance on deporting immigrants.
And an online petition by the website colorofchange.org generated 30,000 signatures in three days. “By selecting Donald Trump as a host, they legitimize Trump’s campaign rhetoric — which is rooted in racism and fear-mongering — and make the real-world violence he incites against people of color a laughing matter,” the petition read.
'Not a big deal'
Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who also found himself under attack from Trump this week, said Thursday that he would release the record of personal purchases he made with a credit card that he shared with the Republican Party of Florida.
Rubio had the card from 2005 to 2008 and has admitted buying groceries and airline tickets with it. He called the accusations “not a big deal” and said that he paid back all the personal expenditures.
In third place, Rubio has climbed in the polls since his performance in last week’s Republican debate, making him a target of other Republican presidential candidates.
Trump called him a “disaster” with his credit cards, to which Rubio responded to the French news agency AFP, “I find it curious that Donald Trump, the only person in this race who has filed for bankruptcy — not once, but four times — is attacking anyone’s finances.”