Ben Carson: A Whale of a Tale at Yale

GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson has had a lot to say about the "liberal media," and feels the vetting he has experienced is because he is a threat to the "secular progressive movement in this country." No one can accuse the conservative Wall Street Journal of being part of the left, yet even they have raised questions about some anecdotes told by Carson.

One incident the WSJ describes is where Carson alleges in his 1990 autobiography Gifted Hands, that when he was a student at Yale, he took a class called Perceptions 301, wherein the psychology professor told the class that their final exam papers had been "inadvertently burned." This apparently caused all 150 students to be required to retake a new and harder exam. According to the WSJ, Carson claimed that all of the students except him walked out.

The Yale tale continues that the professor approached Carson with a photographer from the Yale Daily News who took his picture. You see, it was all part of a hoax to see who the most honest student in the class was. Guess what! It was BEN! Carson was also reportedly rewarded with a $10 bill. (I thought honesty was its own reward, but at Yale it comes with a $10 bonus.)

I find this story fascinating. If true, I know who the most dishonest person was in the scenario -- the professor who lied to 150 students, telling them their exam papers had been inadvertently burned. The papers may not have been burned, but the class certainly was.

In addition, I can't quite figure out why everyone except Carson would literally walk out. You would think that out of 150 students, more than one would be honest. And I'm not clear what the whole hoax had to do with honesty in the first place. Could it possibly be that Carson was the only one of the 150 students gullible enough to think the test papers were accidently burned?

The relevant excerpt from Carson's autobiography, Gifted Hands, can be read by clicking here.

The Wall Street Journal report casts some doubt on the whole story, noting, "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 was on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, and claims his camp has found a story in the Yale Daily News about the incident. He also appeared on CBS's Face the Nation today, and stated ". . . we were able to find the article. And it will be coming out within the next day or two showing what happened with that psychology course."

I don't know why Carson is waiting to release the article. He did not state whether or not he is pictured or even mentioned in it as the most honest student, nor did either moderator bother to ask, perhaps out of fear they would be accused of posing a "gotcha" question.

The WSJ article also discusses many other assertions by Carson, including his claims that in high school in 1968 he rescued some white students after the Martin Luther King assassination. In another tale, he claims that he tried to stab a boy. He had a very interesting range of emotions -- from attempted stabber to successful rescuer.

The WSJ report notes that in his 1996 book Think Big: Unleashing Your Potential for Excellence, Carson identified the potential stabbing victim as "Bob." Carson is quoted as saying "I've never used the true names of people in books." I suppose the bigger question is does he use the true facts in his books? And couldn't he come up with a more creative name than "Bob?"

The WSJ also addresses the Carson story that as a young doctor he claims to have had a gun stuck in his ribs in a Popeye's restaurant during a hold-up. He allegedly told the robber, "I believe that you want the guy behind the counter." That doesn't seem very heroic to me, but I suppose cashiers are easier to replace than doctors. (This reminds me of an old Gary Larson "Far Side" cartoon depicting two bears in a hunter's scope, and one bear points to the other, suggesting the hunter shoot the other bear; click here to see.)

The WSJ article cast doubts on other Carson claims. He purports to have been offered a full scholarship at West Point, but they don't offer scholarships. He asserts that he didn't have an involvement with the controversial supplement company, Mannatech Inc., yet he made speeches for them and has appeared in videos on their website.

Carson lashes out at his critics, stating many of these events happened long ago. That may true, but they were important enough for him to share when his history served his purpose -- so shouldn't he be an accurate historian?

He also complains that he has been subject to more scrutiny then President Obama or others. This is a difficult thing to quantify, but perhaps Carson's strange stories raised more red flags. I do seem to recall considerable media scrutiny of President Obama's birth certificate and his relationship to Reverend Wright of the Trinity United Church of Christ -- back in days before Obama was called a Muslim by many on the right. And Hillary certainly has had her share of vetting, including Benghazi, her emails and The Clinton Foundation.

I think we can all agree, Carson is no electrically charged dynamo. His monotone voice and slow pace of delivery could cure insomnia. (Warning: Don't listen to him while driving.) Trump says Carson has "super low energy." I find that to be an understatement -- and Trump isn't known for his understatements.

I suppose Carson believes that all the stories he tells about himself make him more interesting. I agree -- his tall tales are indeed fascinating.

Carson has asked the American people, "Do you think I am a pathological liar?" I suppose you would have to be a psychiatrist to fully answer that. It seems to me there are only three possible answers about some of his anecdotes: 1) He is truthful, 2) He is not truthful and knows it, or 3) He is not truthful, but somehow believes the stories he tells are true.

Carson has authored multiple books and has made some bucks on the speaking circuit. I think that would be a nice career for him to continue to pursue.

Here's Jon Lovitz as "The Pathological Liar" on Johnny Carson (no relation to Ben) in 1985.