WASHINGTON (MEDIA GENERAL) — Top-flight 2016 Republican presidential candidates reckoned with tough questions this week that reared up from their pasts.
Friday morning, Politico reported that Dr. Ben Carson’s team admitted that he fabricated an oft-told story about receiving a full scholarship offer from West Point in the 1960s, following a personal meeting with Gen. William Westmoreland. After a quick fact check by Politico, the inspirational tale promptly fell apart.
Politico checked with officials and writes, “West Point, however, has no record of Carson applying, much less being extended admission.”
Donald Trump jumped on the revelation, tweeting, “WOW, one of many lies by Ben Carson! Big story.”
Within hours, Fox News’ Megyn Kelly tweeted that Team Carson denied any fabrication, calling the Politico article “an outright lie.”
Fact or fabrication, this development could amplify recent questions of Carson’s overall honesty and trustworthiness.
Days earlier, CNN aired a pointed investigation into Carson’s claims that as a teenager he tried to stab a friend during a heated argument, but the blade miraculously broke off on a metal belt buckle. The cable news network spoke to 10 friends of Carson’s from that time period, none of whom could concretely confirm the events or the anonymous stabbing victim.
Carson, who’s running neck-and-neck with Donald Trump for the GOP top spot in state and national polls, declined to identify the man he claims to have stabbed as a 14-year-old. Facing heat from reporters for confirmable details, Carson said the victim is actually a family member, and added that prior to undergoing a radical attitude adjustment, he also attempted to hit his mother with a hammer.
Internet commentators went wild about Dr. Carson for several days, zeroing in on his long-asserted belief that Egypt’s pyramids were built for grain storage, not for dead pharaohs. When confronted with historical facts to the contrary, Carson doubled down, citing the Bible.
As Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) surged in the polls, climbing to third place in some rankings, he also faced new questions from national media on his financial records going back to his time as speaker of the House in Florida.
Rubio admits to incorrectly charging thousands of dollars in personal expenses to his Republican Party account, which he eventually reimbursed. The Florida senator has pushed back on previous insinuations of pathological financial impropriety, but capitulated to demands for fuller transparency this week, promising to share more credit cards records from his time in the statehouse.
Jeb Bush started Monday afresh, rolling out his “Jeb Can Fix It” campaign, meant to overshadow his dismal performance in the third GOP debate. But by Thursday, attention turned to Bush’s response to his father, George H.W. Bush, slamming two members of George W. Bush’s White House team, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.
In no time, Jeb got dragged into the name-calling rehash of his brother’s administration.
So instead of creating “Fix It” headlines, Jeb Bush had to explain why he disagreed with the senior Bush’s assessment that the “arrogant” Rumsfeld and “iron-ass” Cheney unduly influenced his brothers’ presidency.
Front-runner Donald Trump largely eschewed chatter of his companies’ past bankruptcies, spending most of the week at Saturday Night Live preparing for his run as host.
Top-tier GOP candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) sailed through the week largely unscathed, ready to bring his sharpened rhetorical skills to Republicans’ Fox Business debate next week.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton continued her reign as the left’s clear leader. Bernie Sanders tried to dodge accusations of sexism and reworked his answer on Clinton’s emails, suggesting he could make them more of an issue going forward.
Overall, it was an easy week for the top Democrats.