For the past week, GOP presidential hopeful Ben Carson has faced what might be the most intense media scrutiny of his life – while raking in huge sums of donations.
Dr. Carson's campaign faced challenges over the candidate's stories about his adolescence. On Thursday, Politico published an article asserting that Carson "fabricated" a story about refusing a full scholarship to the United States Military Academy. After criticism from the campaign, the article was updated, but still contended that Carson was not offered admission nor a scholarship to West Point, as he has said in the past.
A day earlier, Buzzfeed uncovered footage of a speech Carson gave in 1998 where he said he believed that the biblical figure Joseph built the pyramids in Egypt to store grain and avoid an impending famine. That story from the Old Testament takes places during the Middle Kingdom of ancient Egypt, five centuries after the Pyramids of Giza were built.
And on Thursday, CNN reporting cast doubt on a incident described in Carson's 1990 autobiography in which Carson attempted to stab another young man, only to have the knife blade deflected and broken by a belt buckle. The story is meant to illustrate the candidate's transformation from an angry young man to a self-made world-class surgeon.
“I would say to the people of America: Do you think I’m a pathological liar like CNN does? Or do you think I’m an honest person?” Carson asked on Fox News's "The Kelly File."
On Saturday, Carson posted a tweet thanking “biased media” for helping him raise $3.5 million.
We the People have made 10,000 donations each day this week, raising $3.5M this week alone. Thank you biased media.— Dr. Ben Carson (@RealBenCarson) November 7, 2015
The Christian Science Monitor’s Peter Grier reported on the potential fallout from Carson’s misstatements about West Point. Grier posed the question: What if the media is making a big deal out of nothing?
Look at this from the point of view of a committed Carson supporter: The West Point thing is just nit picking. Carson has always said he turned down the opportunity to go the US Military Academy. And the CNN stuff is kind of backward. The ex-surgeon’s credibility is in trouble because he may have been a more well-behaved teen than he’s led the world to believe? Is that really going to cost him votes?
Carson’s strategy in handling tough criticism has been to disavow the mainstream media and claim bias, and that likely resonates with his supporters. Liberal media bias has long been a talking point among conservative politicians. A recent gallup poll showed fewer than a third of Republicans trust the media, while more than half of Democrats do.
The Washington Post’s David Weigal examined Republicans' frustrations with the press, arguing that many see a different agenda in perceived takedown stories based on the candidate’s party affiliation:
It doesn't matter that ABC News broke the Jeremiah Wright story or that Politico broke the Bill Ayers story. Because those stories were not piled on Obama — or because he was able to break free of them — they are proof that the media went easy and allowed him to become president … The assumption that the media vets Democrats only as a way to clear them runs as deep as the assumption that it vets Republicans to destroy them.
While appearing on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" on Monday, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee warned Carson that the scrutiny will likely intensify.
“I’m thinking, ‘pal, you ain’t seen nothing yet,’” Huckabee said about Carson. "They have not yet come after your kids and the rest of your family – they will.