As Ben Carson tries to brush off growing questions about the accuracy of his autobiographical statements, Hollywood conservatives insist the GOP frontrunner is facing what amounts to a liberal “media hit job.”
“This whole angle seems like it has a political motivation,” producer and writer John Sullivan told TheWrap. “From my perspective this is a total big-media hit job. As the story continues, we’ll see the facts coming out.”
Carson’s personal rise from poverty to top neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins University has become a central theme of his 2016 presidential bid. But the story has come under the harsh scrutiny from reporters who have been unable to verify many of Carson’s stories.
The retired neurosurgeon has repeatedly said he was offered a full scholarship to the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., and that the offer came from none other than Gen. William Westmoreland in 1969 when Carson was a ROTC high school student leader in Detroit.
But Politico discovered that not only did Carson never apply to West Point, Westmoreland wasn’t in Detroit at the time Carson has claimed the meeting took place.
Carson has since described the offer as “informal” and insisted the meeting with Westmoreland did in fact happen, though he may have gotten the date wrong.
That explanation seems to ring true for many Hollywood conservatives.
“There is no way he wasn’t romanced by every military academy,” said one member of the conservative group Friends of Abe who wished to remain anonymous. “He was a top ROTC student in the city of Detroit, he was smart and he was African-American. What could be better than that? I totally believe that he was approached by West Point.”
Carson’s credibility came under fire again after reporters raised questions about his story about protecting his white high school classmates the day after Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1968 assassination.
Carson told the Wall Street Journal that he ushered his frightened friends to the physics lab to shield them from the violence. But, according to the paper, Carson’s classmates and his high school physics teacher did not remember the story.
“All candidates make mistakes and say things that don’t quite make sense,” author Steven J. Thompson and another member of Friends of Abe, told TheWrap. “If you interviewed me every day I would probably say things too.”
Either way, Thompson believe there simply isn’t a “smoking gun.”
Interestingly, the media scrutiny into Carson’s backstory hasn’t seem to hurt him politically. Not only is he still leading in many polls, but the GOP candidate has pulled in a whopping $3.5 million in donations in just the last week alone. He has also gained 100,000 new followers on Facebook.
But while Hollywood conservatives don’t think Carson lied, some worried the controversy could give voters some pause.
“The media has come after him far more than Obama when he ran for president,” Dave Berg, former co-producer of “The Tonight Show” and Friends of Abe member, told TheWrap. “But I don’t think you can blame it all on the media.”
Berg said Carson made what amounts to a rookie mistake when he said during a recent interview “the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed.”
“Having worked on the ‘Tonight Show’ for many years, I can tell you that one of TV’s cardinal rules is, never bring up the Holocaust,” Berg said.
Berg also took issue with Carson’s assertion that homosexuality is a choice.
“A lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight — and when they come out, they’re gay. So, did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question,” Carson said during an interview on CNN.
“That’s absurd,” Berg said. “I talked to a lot of prominent conservatives who happen to be gay and they were outraged by his comments.”
Berg said he initially considered voting for Carson, but he now believes the candidate’s more controversial comments and misstatements could come to haunt him during the general election.
That sentiment was echoed by Thompson.
“The question is, ‘Does Ben have that Teflon quality that other candidates seem to have?'” he said. “Can he eventually come out of it clean?”