Ben Carson’s “proof” for story about hoax class is literally parody

Ben Carson spent the end of the week fighting off reports that his compelling personal story is one part embellished and one part made up. While a Politico report on Carson’s account of a meeting with General Westmoreland in 1969 left the Internet parsing the meaning of the words “full scholarship,” the Detroit News pointed out that General Westmoreland wasn’t in Detroit anywhere near the date that Carson says the meeting took place.

Additionally, and perhaps more interestingly, the Wall Street Journal reported that at least two more of Carson’s stories — how he protected his white classmates from rioting black students following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. by hiding them in a biology classroom and how he became the “most honest” student at Yale by being the only student to take a nearly-impossible retest — are almost certainly false.

As for the first story:

It is a dramatic account of courage and kindness, and it couldn’t be confirmed in interviews with a half-dozen of Mr. Carson’s classmates and his high school physics teacher. The students all remembered the riot. None recalled hearing about white students hiding in the biology lab, and Mr. Carson couldn’t remember any names of those he sheltered.

And the second:

Ben Carson, screenshot via YouTube

Ben Carson, screenshot via YouTube

In his 1990 autobiography, “Gifted Hands,” Mr. Carson writes of a Yale psychology professor who told Mr. Carson, then a junior, and the other students in the class—identified by Mr. Carson as Perceptions 301—that their final exam papers had “inadvertently burned,” requiring all 150 students to retake it. The new exam, Mr. Carson recalled in the book, was much tougher. All the students but Mr. Carson walked out.

“The professor came toward me. With her was a photographer for the Yale Daily News who paused and snapped my picture,” Mr. Carson wrote. “ ‘A hoax,’ the teacher said. ‘We wanted to see who was the most honest student in the class.’ ” Mr. Carson wrote that the professor handed him a $10 bill.

No photo identifying Mr. Carson as a student ever ran, according to the Yale Daily News archives, and no stories from that era mention a class called Perceptions 301. Yale Librarian Claryn Spies said Friday there was no psychology course by that name or class number during any of Mr. Carson’s years at Yale.

This morning, Carson has posted “proof” of his version of the Yale story on Facebook, sarcastically sniping about a forthcoming apology from the obviously biased media. But the evidence Carson provides for his stories is the opposite of convincing:

On Saturday a reporter with the Wall Street Journal published a story that my account of being the victim of a hoax at…

Posted by Dr. Ben Carson on Sunday, November 8, 2015

Yep. That article, labeled under the header “parody,” is responding to a joke issue of the Yale Record, the college’s humor magazine, where the story about the hoax class first appeared. Carson is treating Yale’s equivalent of The Onion as a matter of historical record.

But he wasn’t done:

Allow me also to do the research for the Wall Street Journal reporter. Here is a syllabus for the class you claim never existed. Still waiting on the apology.

Posted by Dr. Ben Carson on Sunday, November 8, 2015

If you click through to the syllabus Carson is citing as proof that he was enrolled in Perceptions 301 in 1970, you’ll find that the class has a different number — Psychology 323b — and (at least as far as that link goes) was offered in 2002, not 1970.

If Carson wants the media to lay off claims that he plays fast and loose with the facts — particularly for the purposes of constructing a made-for-TV story of Evangelical redemption — this isn’t going to help.

Correction: The article Carson posted is from the Yale Daily News, not the Yale Record. The Daily News was responding to a parody issue of the Record, in which the story about the hoax class originally appeared.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

Share This Post

© 2018 AMERICAblog Media, LLC. All rights reserved. · Entries RSS