Speed Reads

Race for 2016

Ben Carson made up his tales of youthful violence, CNN suggests

Starting with his 1990 biography and in subsequent public comments, Dr. Ben Carson has discussed a childhood filled with sporadic acts of violence due to his quashed-by-grace "pathological temper." He has described trying to stab one friend, hitting another in the head with a lock in his hand, and attempting to crack his mother in the head with a hammer. On Thursday, CNN reported that after talking with nine friends, classmates, and neighbors from his childhood in Detroit, "that person is unrecognizable." The Benny Carson they remember was slightly nerdy, skinny with thick glasses, and strictly obedient to his mother.

"All of the people interviewed expressed surprise about the incidents Carson has described," say CNN's Scott Glover and Maeve Reston. "No one challenged the stories directly. Some of those interviewed expressed skepticism, but noted that they could not know what had happened behind closed doors." Among those not overly skeptical was Donald Trump, neck-and-neck with Carson in the race for the Republican presidential nomination:

Carson's campaign refused to comment when approached by CNN before the article was published, but afterward he told the network's Sunlen Serfaty that the names he used in the autobiography were "fictitious," and he wasn't going to give the real names unless the victims of his violence stepped forward. "‎Why would anybody know about, you know, private incidents like that?" Carson said. "I was generally a nice person. It's just that I had a very bad temper, so unless you were the victim of that temper, why would you know?"

Still, the (named) friends and classmates who knew Carson said the acts of violence he described didn't fit with their memories. Gerald Ware, a classmate at Southwestern High School, said he was "shocked" when he read the violent acts in Carson's biography — as were a group of classmates who gathered a few years ago to plan a reunion. "Take my word for it: Everyone at Southwestern would know about it if something like that happened," Ware said. You can read more about CNN's attempt to track down Carson's violent past, and Carson's rebuttals, at CNN, or watch the network's report from Thursday night below. Peter Weber