Sometimes, the best response to media bias is to simply point and laugh. And if the last five days weren’t dedicated to an effort to destroy the reputation of a good man, I’d be laughing hysterically at what passes for “investigative journalism” when Ben Carson is the target.
Let’s quickly review. Last week CNN “raised questions” about Carson’s claims of childhood rage episodes by interviewing people who didn’t know Carson at the time of the alleged incidents, weren’t put forth as witnesses, and didn’t contradict his story. In fact, despite their distance from Carson and from the decades of time past, one of these individuals even corroborated Carson’s account — claiming he or she heard “rumors” of a now-famous stabbing incident.
On Friday, Politico destroyed its credibility by boldly declaring that Carson “fabricated” a claim that he’d never made — that he’d applied to and been accepted for admission at West Point.
Then, this weekend, the Wall Street Journal got into the act, this time “raising questions” abut a number of incidents from Carson’s biography. First, questioning Carson’s claims about sheltering white students from a riot in a biology lab, it interviewed a physics teacher and students who didn’t claim to be in the biology lab. (They all corroborated the existence of the riot.) Next up: The Journal questions Carson’s English grades by questioning his history professor?
The Journal then attacked Carson’s story of a hoax psychology exam (given as a test of honesty for the students), claiming that there was no record of the class and that the Yale Daily News never ran his picture. (Carson said that a photographer for the paper took his picture, not that it published the photograph.) Carson responded by producing a Yale Daily News article describing a hoax-exam incident very much like the one Carson described in his book.
So, for those keeping score, days of media hits on decades-old incidents revealed, at most, utterly trivial contradictions (a dinner Carson thought happened in May really occurred in a different month; a psychology-class incident may have occurred his freshman year, not his junior year) while backing up the core assertions. Yes, there was a hoax exam. Yes, a person from Detroit heard of the Carson stabbing incident. Yes, there was a riot at his school. In the meantime, all this digging has not yielded a single person to contradict the primary elements of his stories. Not one.
This isn’t investigative journalism. It’s a clown show. To “raise questions” about incidents that occurred more than 40 years ago, one does not interview people who weren’t involved and weren’t there. Maybe it’s a scoop if CNN found the person who argued with Carson and says that Carson pushed him and didn’t try to stab him. Maybe it’s a scoop if Politico interviews someone who heard military officials talk to Carson about West Point and plainly heard that they made no offers of “scholarships” or any other enthusiastic expressions about his chances for admission. Maybe it’s a scoop if the Wall Street Journal found someone who was in the biology lab the night of the riot and says Carson was nowhere to be found. But the media’s “investigative” standard here is strange, indeed — actual corroboration of Carson’s account followed by no meaningful contradiction does not “raise questions” about Carson’s honesty.
Let’s be clear: If this is the new media standard for “vetting,” then no candidate can ever survive a run for office. Unless the stories of your life are so memorable that other, unrelated people who weren’t present at the incidents in question can describe the events decades later, then you may not be honest enough to be president. Here’s my advice for young people — carry around a stack of affidavits, because you never know when you’ll need to document the facts of your life. Sworn witness statements are always helpful.
Conservatives have grown accustomed to wild conspiracy theories and bizarre reporting from fever-swamp leftist blogs. But is there now no meaningful distinction between CNN and Daily Kos, between Politico and Salon? And this is just the beginning. Soon enough the Left will recognize its true peril — that a conservative victory in 2016 would leave the Democratic party weaker than at any time since the immediate aftermath of the Civil War. And if that defeat came at the hands of a black Christian conservative, the consequences would be catastrophic for the entire identity-politics enterprise.
No one thinks conservatives are perfect, but there is a difference between scandal and slander. So far there is no Carson scandal, and everyone who uses the “reporting” of the last week to justify accusations of dishonesty is verging on slander. Carson’s reputation is intact. And, ironically, so is the media’s. They behaved exactly as conservatives expect.