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Ben Carson Lashes Out at West Point Coverage

4 minute read

Republican Ben Carson is lashing out at reporters for questioning his biography and complaining about what he sees as uneven media coverage.

An unusually animated Carson met reporters in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, to respond to a pair of negative stories written about his campaign. In one, CNN raised questions about his self-described violent youth. In another, Politico suggested that the retired neurosurgeon had fibbed about an offer of a scholarship to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Both stories stood to undercut parts of Carson’s biography that has helped rise to the top of the Republican presidential field—despite having never before sought elected office.

“My job is to call you out when you’re unfair,” Carson scolded. “The American people are waking up to your games.”

Carson used the unusual Friday-evening news conference to turn the tables on journalists. He interrupted, mocked and scolded the reporters for even questioning his biography, which has helped him sell millions of books. He predicted that the stories that questioned his character would only help him solidify support among the GOP base, which deeply distrusts the mainstream press.

“All of you guys piling-on is actually going to help me. … This is a witch hunt,” he said.

Carson also tried to shift the conversation toward President Obama, citing a common conservative belief that reporters did not thoroughly vet Obama during two national campaigns.

“I do not remember this level of scrutiny for one President Barack Obama when he was running. In fact, I remember just the opposite,” Carson said. “I remember people saying, ‘Oh, we won’t talk about that.’”

He ticked through a series of figures that conservatives see as Obama liabilities that he felt traditional reporters ignored. Frank Marshall Davis, a friend of Obama’s grandfather who was a Communist; Obama critics say Davis was his political mentor, a claim repeated debunked. He also invoked Weather Underground figures Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn; during the 2008 campaign, Republican VP pick Sarah Palin said Obama was “palling around with terrorists.” Numerous fact-checkers said no.

Carson invoked Obama’s one-time pastor. “All the things that Jeremiah Wright was saying? ‘Ah, not a big problem,’” Carson said. (Reports on Wright’s sermons forced Obama to condemn his one-time pastor during the 2008 campaign.)

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Then Carson shifted to Obama’s time in college. “He goes to Occidental College, doesn’t do all that well and somehow ends up at Columbia University,” Carson said. “His records are sealed. Why are you guys not interested in why his records are sealed?” Some believe Obama’s transcripts are sealed because they might indicate that he applied as a Kenyan. Obama was born in Hawaii. “Will someone tell me, please, why you have not investigated that?”

It’s a sign Carson is willing to give many Republican primary voters what they want—yet another national campaign of discredited rumors about Obama, who is leaving office in 2017.

But when reporters tried to turn the questions back to Carson, he was intransigent.

“I never said I received a full scholarship,” Carson said, before saying it was offered informally. He could not remember who offered him the scholarship.

He also declined to name the victims of his violent crime or offer witnesses who could vouch for his claim that, after a troubled and angry youth, he turned to faith and found peace.

Instead, Carson predicted reporters would continue looking for ways to make him look bad. “Next week, there will be a teacher who said I peed in my pants.”

Read Next: Ben Carson Faces New Scrutiny as Frontrunner

See Ben Carson's Life in Photos

An early childhood photograph of Ben Carson.Courtesy of Ben Carson Campaign
Ben Carson's graduation from Southwestern High School, Detroit circa 1969.Courtesy of Ben Carson Campaign
Ben Carson with his mother, Sonya, and his future wife, Candy after his graduation from Yale University, circa 1973. Courtesy of Ben Carson Campaign
Ben Carson - Life in Pictures
Dr. Donlin Long, director of neurosurgery, left, and Dr. Ben Carson director of pediatric neurosurgery at John Hopkins Hospital, with brain model of the Siamese twins separated in a 22-hour surgery at Hopkins, Sept. 7, 1987, in Baltimore.Fred Kraft—AP
Ben Carson - Life in Pictures
Dr. Ben Carson shares his personal story with middle school students on March 17, 2000 in Roswell, N.M.Aaron J. Walker—AP
Ben Carson - Life in Pictures
Dr Dennis Rohner, Dr Beat Hammer, Dr Ivan Ng, Dr Ben Carson, Prof. Walter Tan, and Dr Keith Goh rehearse an operation to separate conjoined twins Ladan and Laleh Bijani from Iran at Raffles Hospital on July 5, 2003 in Singapore.Reuters
Ben Carson - Life in Pictures
Dr. Keith Goh (left) adjusts the frame on conjoined twins Ladan and Laleh Bijani as Dr. Ben Carson observes the start of neurosurgery proceedings at the Raffles Hospital on July 6, 2003 in Singapore. Getty Images
Ben Carson - Life in Pictures
Ten-year-old Indian twins Sabah and Farah sit beside Ben Carson (C), Managing Director, Apollo Hospital, New Delhi, Anne Marie Moncure, their father Shakeel (L), their brother (R) and senior child specialist of Apollo Hospital, Dr. Anupan Sibal, on Oct. 4, 2005 in New Delhi.Raveendran—AFP/Getty Images
Ben Carson - Life in Pictures
George W. Bush presents a Presidential Medal of Freedom to Ben Carson for his work with neurological disorders on June 19, 2008 at the White House in Washington.Alex Wong—Getty Images
Ben Carson - Life in Pictures
Ben Carson officially announces his candidacy for President of the United States on May 4, 2015 in Detroit.Bill Pugliano—Getty Images
Ben Carson - Life in Pictures
Ben Carson poses for a photo during the Iowa Republican Party's Lincoln Dinner on May 16, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa.Charlie Neibergall—AP
PresidBen Carson - Life in Picturesential Hopefuls Attend Southern Republican Leadership Conference
Ben Carson speaks during the Energizing America Gala at the 2015 Southern Republican Leadership Conference May 22, 2015 in Oklahoma City, Okla.Alex Wong—Getty Images
Ben Carson - Life in Pictures
Ben Carson at a political fund-raiser for GOP candidates on June 6, 2015, in Boone, Iowa. Jabin Bostford—The Washington Post/Getty Images
Ben Carson - Life in Pictures
Republican presidential candidates from left, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Scott Walker, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and John Kasich take the stage for the first Republican presidential debate on Aug. 6, 2015, in Cleveland. Andrew Harnik—AP
Ben Carson - Life in Pictures
Ben Carson prays during church services at Maple Street Missionary Baptist Church on Aug. 16, 2015 in Des Moines , Iowa. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images
Ben Carson - Life in Pictures
Ben Carson rides the Sky Glider with a reporter while touring the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 16, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa.Justin Sullivan—Getty Images
Ben Carson - Life in Pictures
Ben Carson and his wife Candy on Aug. 18, 2015 in Phoenix.Ross D. Franklin—AP
Ben Carson - Life in Pictures
Ben Carson is greeted by supporters at a rally on Aug. 27, 2015 in Little Rock, Ark.Danny Johnston—AP
Ben Carson - Life in Pictures
Ben Carson at a service at Maple Street Missionary Baptist Church on Aug. 16, 2015 in Des Moines.Daniel Acker—Bloomberg/Getty Images

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Write to Philip Elliott at philip.elliott@time.com