Home / General / The Carson grift goes south

The Carson grift goes south



All right, forget the long con. If the fool tips, you’re caught. You’ll do time. Never do time.

The Grifters

Scott pointed out a few days ago that the Carson presidential campaign is pretty much just another Armstrong Williams-managed griftathon, although I think there are legitimate questions about the extent to which Carson himself is one of the marks.

Anyway, this particular carnival is probably about to be moving on down the road.

In his 1990 autobiography, “Gifted Hands,” Mr. Carson writes of a Yale psychology professor who told Mr. Carson, then a junior, and the other students in the class—identified by Mr. Carson as Perceptions 301—that their final exam papers had “inadvertently burned,” requiring all 150 students to retake it. The new exam, Mr. Carson recalled in the book, was much tougher. All the students but Mr. Carson walked out.

“The professor came toward me. With her was a photographer for the Yale Daily News who paused and snapped my picture,” Mr. Carson wrote. “ ‘A hoax,’ the teacher said. ‘We wanted to see who was the most honest student in the class.’ ” Mr. Carson wrote that the professor handed him a $10 bill.

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.

That’s from the well-known left-wing propaganda machine the Wall Street Journal by the way.

In the wake of one this past summer’s research projects, I’ve become a bit of an aficionado of the obviously bullshit story told to an all-too credulous audience, and this one is just a beautiful example of the genre.

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  • AcademicLurker

    Will this (or the West Point lie, or the lies about & etc. & etc.) make any difference? No matter how many blatant lies are uncovered, as long as they’re being uncovered by the big bad “liberal media”, then the conclusion for Carson fans is simply that the liberal media are just a bunch of elitist bullies.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      I’d imagine the lies/tall tales will make a difference to people who aren’t already his fans. The fans, though, will probably stick with him even if it turns out he has been wearing a mask all this time and is actually a Martian anthropologist running an experiment on them

      • ploeg

        Yes. I don’t think that anybody who currently has a Carson yard sign will take it down because of anything that Carson said in his books. This is all known knowledge to them. I expect Carson to do well in Iowa.

        I also expected Carson’s support to go do2n quite a bit. There’s undoubtedly a good chunk of his current support that comes from people who don’t know him so well but know that he isn’t a politician and that he isn’t Hillary Clinton.

        • guthrie

          I expect though that people who read his books don’t actually do so critically or even remember much of what is in them.

      • K488

        So, if he is a Martian anthropologist running an experiment, will he give the last person standing a ten dollar bill?

    • Hogan

      When your argument turns on the WSJ being “liberal media,” you’re already losing. It’s not like conservatives are in lockstep behind Carson; sooner or later even more clearly “conservative” outlets are going to pick this up for the benefit of Trump or Cruz or whomever.

      • Derelict

        Well, they already claim that Rick freaking Santelli is a liberal media figure because he asked questions at the last debate. And Megan Kelly is suspected of wearing pink underwear because she brought Trump’s own words before him at the first debate. So calling the WSJ “another liberal media outlet” will definitely fly with the Bible-bangers out there in I-Oh-Way. Doing so is, in and of itself, a winning argument.

      • alex284

        Disagree. “Liberal” simply means “not marching in lockstep with the base’s baser instincts” to movement conservatives. The WSJ is by definition liberal/RINO/secretly-in-the-tank-for-Hillary in this instance.

      • Who do you think planted all these stories, Hogan? Cui bono, and has the resources to stick a fork in Carson?

        • Hogan

          I don’t think it’s a question of planting or resources; the overlap/back-and-forth between campaigns and media is such that this happens all the time in background. When Carson broke out of the pack, people belatedly began looking into his history. The pyramid video came first, but I suspect his autobiography is a rich trove of material that will sound very different to most people than it does to his intended audience, and we’re just seeing the first fruits of that.

          • The only necessary resources appear to be the buck or two necessary to buy a used copy of his book and the afternoon to read it.

    • Dilan Esper

      Carson wasn’t going to win anyway.

      The mistake here is treating someone leading in the polls as an actual frontrunner. People lie to pollsters. People use polls to express moral outrage, show they aren’t racist, or do all sorts of other things. It’s a freebie– nothing you tell a pollster is an actual vote in an election.

      Since Carson is not going to win, it’s silly to talk about scandals taking him down. He’s not up. He’s just a polling anaomaly.

      • random

        The mistake here is treating someone leading in the polls as an actual frontrunner.

        The person leading in the polls is an actual frontrunner. The mistake would be not treating them as such.

        People lie to pollsters. People use polls to express moral outrage, show they aren’t racist, or do all sorts of other things.

        People say this when polls don’t show what they want them to show.

        He’s not up. He’s just a polling anaomaly.

        He’s definitely up. Over two dozen polls in a row putting him at first or second place isn’t an anomaly and it isn’t driven by a mass of people spontaneously deciding at the same time to lie to pollsters

        • Dilan Esper

          What is going on is either a lot of liberals pretending to be dumb or actually being dumb.

          Ben Carson was never going to be nominated as the Republican nominee. So he is not the front runner.

          Now, if you actually believe that what people say to pollsters is more important than that, you are an idiot. More likely, though, you are not an idiot, which means the more likely explanation is that you are entertained by the clown show that is the Republican nominating process and therefore you pretend that Carson is really the front runner, or Trump, or whatever the flavor of the month is. It allows you to think Republicans are dumber than they are. But they never actually nominate these idiots. They aren’t that dumb. They are just trolling the pollsters, as they often do. President Bachmann and President Cain and President Gingrich would like to have a word with you.

          Look, Ben Carson was going down no matter what, resume embellishments or no resume embellishments. Because when actual votes are cast, actual politicians always get them.

          • random

            What is going on is either a lot of liberals pretending to be dumb or actually being dumb..

            This is not something that is happening.

            Ben Carson was never going to be nominated as the Republican nominee. So he is not the front runner.

            You have a hypothesis in your head for what you think will happen in the future. It may even be a sound hypothesis. It may even turn out to be right. I think it will.

            However, we are not living in the future. We’re living in the present, where the guy who’s running first in the polls is the frontrunner.

            Now, if you actually believe that what people say to pollsters is more important than that, you are an idiot.

            Obviously, what people are saying to pollsters right now is more important than your personal beliefs about what you think will happen in the future.

            therefore you pretend that Carson is really the front runner, or Trump,

            It is a fact that they are the front-runners. You are the one asserting that what is in fact the case cannot actually be the case because you believe that it will not be the case at some future date.

            But they never actually nominate these idiots. They aren’t that dumb. They are just trolling the pollsters, as they often do.

            This is genuinely idiotic.

            Because when actual votes are cast, actual politicians always get them.

            By this logic Obama couldn’t win the nomination in 2008 because he isn’t white.

            Unless there’s a physical or logical law prohibiting something from happening, it’s possible for it to happen.

            President Bachmann and President Cain and President Gingrich would like to have a word with you.

            The fact that these people did not end up with the nomination does not change the fact that they were front-runners at various points.

        • Manny Kant

          I rather want to split the difference here. Carson is not a serious candidate, and there was never any real chance he was going to win the nomination, no matter what the polls say. That doesn’t mean the polls aren’t accurate. It means that polls months out from actual elections are going to be somewhat weak predictors of what is actually going to happen.

          In this case, because Carson is a fringe nutjob whose success has largely come while nobody is taking him all that seriously, it was inevitable that as soon as his polls start to look like they might be something real, stuff was going to start getting reported which would start taking his campaign down.

          I’m not sure why people are so confident that this won’t hurt him. This is the kind of thing that hurts candidates. There’s going to be a slow roll out of more and more of these kinds of stories over the next week. The Carson campaign can respond to each one, but it ultimately won’t matter, because the narrative will be “Carson is a giant liar.” Stick a fork in him, he’s done.

          • random

            I’m not sure why people are so confident that this won’t hurt him. This is the kind of thing that hurts candidates.

            While I think so too, it is the case that being caught red-handed lying about significant elements of their past can result in a Republican candidate becoming President for two terms.

    • jon98101

      Carson’s views on immigration, gun control and the (recently announced) support for the TPP are what will sink his campaign quicker than anything among the ‘outsider’ Republican voters.

  • matt w

    I don’t even understand what the point of this story is supposed to be. A professor says that, through her own complete incompetence, she has destroyed the students’ work. She takes the opportunity to completely screw the students over. And all but one of them say “Screw this, this is unfair.” How is the last one supposed to be more honest than the rest?

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      “docile” seems like the more appropriate word, yes?

      • Submissive.

      • Hogan

        Or “authoritarian follower,” as the kids say nowadays.

      • Judas Peckerwood

        “full of shit”

    • A professor says that, through her own complete incompetence, she has destroyed the students’ work.

      And *burning* them? Really?

      Anyway, it’s a long standing nightmare of mine that I lose exams (or papers). All electronic submission baby! Now it’s the tech staff’s fault, not mind! (I hope…)

      • Lee Rudolph

        And *burning* them? Really?

        The dragon ate my homework!

        • Judas Peckerwood

          The dragon ate YOUR homework.

      • Derelict

        Prof. Targaryen

    • drwormphd

      Best explanation I’ve heard is that Carson skipped a step in recalling/appropriating this anecdote: the prof gave the students a choice between an ‘A’ or a retake; the prof found out the students had access to the answer key; some other thing that might help his story make actual sense.

      • alex284

        Yeah, I just assumed that the WSJ left out some details. Because, as it stands, the story is just nonsense, on top of being completely unbelievable.

        • alex284

          Or not. I misread your comment.

          But I would like to see the original source before getting into the details of the story. It’s not like this would be the first time ever that a mainstream paper misquoted a primary source.

          • Hogan
            • muddy

              Pretty much word for word. If anyone is leaving parts out of the story it is apparently not WSJ.

              • Hogan

                Of course if you read back far enough, you find the real point of the story is not the exam; it’s that being a good boy got him ten dollars from God when he needed it most.

                • matt w

                  Thanks for the link Hogan. The missing piece does seem to be there: The other students were going to claim that they lied and didn’t see the notice that they were supposed to retake the exam–an extremely plausible story, given that in his story, the professor had seen they were all there at the beginning of the exam period, and handed out exams to them, and even if she hadn’t handed out exams to them there would’ve been the question of all the exams and blue books that had been handed out. And that the professor left the exam totally unproctored, and the students didn’t find that odd. And that the alleged hoax depended on all the students having this exact idiotic thought and only one resisting temptation.

                  So the story is utterly implausible, and anyone reading it with a critical eye should’ve been able to tell it was made up out of whole cloth, or at best a much-filtered story of some psych experiment. But at least it does contain some account of why Carson’s conduct would’ve been more honest than everyone else’s.

                  …and then the professor handed him a ten-dollar bill? What the everloving fuck? I mean, I guess things were probably different in the early 70s than they are now, but as a professor that strikes me as approximately the least plausible part of the story. (Not because we’re cheap, either. Well, not entirely because we’re cheap.)

                • JonH

                  So basically his ghost writer was Jack Chick.

            • Matthew B.

              Looks like the idea is that all 150 other students were planning to walk out with the exam, study it privately, and then claim that they had never known about the repeat exam in the first place and were entitled to a rescheduling?

              Which makes slightly more sense. As in, Carson or his ghostwriter realised how incoherent the story was and tried to do an ineffectual patch job.

              • Derelict

                “Yeah, Prof., I know you handed me the test personally after marking me down as being present. But, really, I wasn’t there and I never heard there was a repeat exam.”

      • Tyro

        Good point. It could be one of that college-exam-urban-legends he was trying to recall and jumbled up, like the “which tire?” exam.

        This comes down to a man so enchanted with his own cleverness that he never stops to think whether what he is saying makes sense.

        In reality, from all accounts other than from himself, Carson was a quiet and studious person, with a fair amount of social awkwardness and reticence, as one would expect from someone who made it to Yale and medical school. I assume that part of his social isolation at Yale led him to believe that there was no one else smarter than he was, and by the time he became a neurosurgeon, there was no one around to tell him otherwise.

        • FlipYrWhig

          I assume that part of his social isolation at Yale led him to believe that there was no one else smarter than he was

          Swap out Yale for Princeton and you get a fairly significant part of the psychodynamics of Ted Cruz.

        • JonH

          And then when he came to the point of having his story ghostwritten, it turned out that being quiet, studious, awkward, and reticent doesn’t give you much material to write a book about.

          • Sure t does. You just describe the bodies buried in the cellar.

    • alex284

      The worst part of the story is that it sounds like it was made up by someone who had never been to college or knew anyone who went to college but was instead just generally aware of the existence of post-secondary education through 80’s movies.

      And we at least know that Carson went to college. So I’m guessing he just thinks everyone is so stupid that they would believe this story, and anyone who isn’t that dumb isn’t going to read his books anyway.

      • Do we? I’d like to see his long form transcript. Particularly to Johns Hopkin

      • TGuerrant

        Yeah, I refuse to vote for a presidential candidate who can’t make up a convincing lie about how honest he is.

      • JonH

        Its like the United Nations as depicted in Left Behind: bears little resemblance to the real UN, since it is probably based on Bircher fever dreams of what the UN is.

  • AMK

    I have a hunch that most of Dr. Ben’s devotees don’t usually skim the WSJ every morning before paying the nanny, calling their secretaries and checking their ETFs.

  • Jordan

    Well, thats definitely a worse story than the first one you posted about, which means absolutely nothing one way or the other.

  • Derelict

    Something that liberals can’t quite wrap their heads around is the idea that being a fabulist, serial prevaricator, liar, fraud is some kind of character flaw that will make conservatives turn away from a candidate. Consider Ronald Reagan, who claimed through most of his political career to have been present at the liberation of a concentration camp (Buchenwald, I think). Despite there being conclusive documentary proof that Reagan never left the US during the war, his supporters didn’t care even slightly that one of his defining biographical moments was complete BS.

    Liberals look at this and say, “Wow! This guy’s untrustworthy!”
    Conservatives look at it and say, “Well, maybe he made it all up. But his heart’s in the right place, and you know how the liberal media are!” Having the media–even Fox News–point out that Carson’s life story as he relates it is a complete fantasy will be seen as a kind of endorsement, a validation that he’s pissing off the liberals. Thus does Cleek’s Law operate in presidential elections.

    • alex284


      If someone looks at the conservative movement over the last few decades and says, “Yup, there’s a group of people with a commitment to the truth for its own sake!” then I don’t know what can be done to help them.

      I don’t see Carson winning the nomination, but he won’t lose because he lied and conservatives were simply disappointed that someone would lie to win office.

    • Tyro

      “His heart is in the right place” also explains why conservatives fall in love with obvious fakes, like Bush’s Texas rancher shtick. We look at him and say, “what a pandering fraud,” whereas southern conservatives saw him and thought, “hey, he’s trying to show respect by making an attempt at being like us.”

    • Scott P.

      The fact that conservatives are willing to overlook untruths in some situations does not, by any means, mean they are willing to overlook them in every situation. (Is there a name for this logical fallacy?).

      My sense is that this is a serious problem for Carson, and might well be the expected implosion of his campaign.

      • alex284

        Is there a place that they have been concerned with untruths? I mean, beyond concern that’s could be motivated by something else (like when they pounced on Obama for his “you will keep your insurance” comments).

        I mean, I guess you’re right that we can’t prove that they will never be concerned about lying ever, but how is that useful here?

        • alex284

          Adding: This is the movement that promotes the ideas that climate change is a hoax, that that video really does show Planned Parenthood selling babies’ brains, that Terri Schiavo was about to walk out of the hospital before he husband killed her, that Trayvon Martin and every other AA person who gets killed by a white person are the real threats for totally made-up reasons every single time one of those tragedies makes headlines, that unemployment is higher now than it was at the beginning of the Obama administration, that the BLS is fabricating inflation numbers, that the US treats prisoners too well, that Obamacare included death panels, that Iraq caused 9/11, that Canada and Europe have terrible health care systems, that Michelle Obama is fat, that the Reagan years showed more growth and less unemployment than the previous decade, that Obama is Muslim, that the Clintons killed Vince Foster, that the Great Recession was caused by AAs and poor whites living beyond their means…

          And that’s not even getting into the lies of this campaign cycle!

          Conservative identity is based on the willful acceptance of obvious untruths in order to show fealty to the cause. If Carson flames out (it’s inevitable), it will not be because conservatives are just completely turned off by any deviation from the truth.

          • random

            Carson’s best arguments are that he’s trustworthy, he’s not Establishment, and he has a much better chance of taking out the Democrats in a Presidential election than running yet another white male Republican.

            Even if he doesn’t directly lose a single conservative vote over this, if the general population outside of the GOP primary decreases their support for him and he stops crushing the Democrats in the matchup polls, this hurts his argument that he’s the GOP’s best chance to wedge-break the Obama Coalition.

            So one way or the other all this scrutiny should hurt him. I really hope it does.

            • efgoldman

              and he stops crushing the Democrats in the matchup polls

              You’ve been flogging this assertion since earlier this week. What polls? Do you know how to link? Because this, if true, should be a huge story, and I haven’t seen it anywhere except by you in these comment sections.

              • benjoya

                agreed. i don’t think i’ve seen any poll that doesn’t have carson losing, maybe a couple withing MoE, but that’s it.

              • Hogan
        • Scott P.

          Is there a place that they have been concerned with untruths? I mean, beyond concern that’s could be motivated by something else

          I’m not sure if you can, or would want to, disentangle motivations like that.

          I think a lot of Carson supporters have backed him out of a distate for ‘typical politicians’, but with an understanding that he’s not likely to win.

          When people like that form a large part of your supporters, you need to maintain forward momentum. My view is that this incident will provide the excuse needed by many to jump off the Carson bandwagon, even if they won’t necessarily do so because they think he’s a lying liar who lies.

          Carson could try to turn this into an asset, as noted above, by framing himself as a victim of the Washington Establishment. The problem is that he doesn’t really have the resources to get his message out on his own; he’s been aided to a great extent by a sympathetic media (or at least a media that is willing to play up candidates who are ‘different’ for at least a little while).

          What I think will happen is that this will continue to be an issue, Carson’s will be perceived as ‘besieged’ and therefore weak, and, he will begin to bleed support.

          • Lee Rudolph

            you need to maintain forward momentum. My view is that this incident will provide the excuse needed by many to jump off the Carson bandwagon

            If they jump off the rear end of the bandwagon, they will increase its forward velocity, though not its forward momentum.

            • Derelict

              Carson’s campaign is picking up speed . . .

              . . . like anything else heading downhill.

            • Goddamned conservation of momentum, crapping all over politics just like it crapped all over my perpetual-motion machine.

          • JonH

            Carson’s religiously-motivated supporters may see the media criticism as an example of Christians being persecuted, and increase their support.

      • TopsyJane

        Yes, it will hurt him. This is the kind of lie that everyone can understand. Much of Carson’s appeal is based on his life story and his persona as a gentle straight shooter. Also, there’s probably much more to come in this vein as people take a harder look.

    • I think it’s the nature of the lie. for instance, Trump has lied repeatedly about his business acumen and record. That’s a caveat emptor lie: you should know better so you factor it in and still consider him. He’s lied repeatedly about being “world class” this or that, yet again, it’s puffery so you cut him some slack.

      Likewise, chickenhawks which make up the decision wing of the party look at Dubya’s dodging service in a very different light than Clinton’s, despite the fact that it’s a difference of degree and not kind between missing the draft and missing a service commitment.

      Carson’s lies? I suspect because the hornswoggle got him considered in the first place, there’s a very dim view being taken of it, which is why Carson is getting really testy about it all.

      • alex284

        There might also be some sense that he was never really going to win, there are 18 other candidates, etc., so why dig in their heels here?

      • Ken

        So can we bring together two of Paul’s topics? He already compared Carson to Goffman. Now Trump is like Infilaw.

        Basically, believable lies are fraud; but unbelievable lies are not (at least legally), because any reasonable person wouldn’t have been taken in.

        • Derelict

          Now Trump is like Infilaw.

          Remember that Andy Cuomo wanted (wants?) to prosecute Trump’s on-line school for being a total fraud. So, like Infilaw, but with more legal problems.

    • Cheerful

      But this points out an issue otherwise discussed here – what really motivates political support? If my choice is between someone I know who makes up stories about their past, lies generally and is basically untrustworthy but who I think, based on past performance and political reality, will enact policies I like, I’ll support him or her over the extremely honest politician who will not.

      My assumption from the little I know of the two men, is that Johnson was more of a liar than Goldwater. But I’d still vote for Johnson.

      And you could prove to me that Hillary was a hundred miles away from some dangerous Bosnian airport and I’d still support her.

      Now it’s true that the Psychology test story is so weird as to cast some serious doubt on Carson’s thinking. But if it were just a matter of embellishing somebody telling him he was a shoe in for West Point into actually receiving an appointment, than if I liked his policies anyway I’d just shrug my shoulders.

      • AndersH

        Exactly, and Carson’s story is tailor-made for the evangelical circuit. Its main point is to show how much like them he is and how much he trusts the grace of God.

      • SatanicPanic

        yeah, Hillary being shot at came to mind, but you know what? fuck it, I’m still voting for her. That being said, being an honest Abe was never her selling point.

      • Derelict

        Again, it’s hard to grasp or understand just how much dishonesty is considered an asset among conservatives. It’s not even a question of “the candidate’s dishonest but will implement policies I like.” Being honest while supporting those policies is seen as a serious liability by conservatives. (Bob Dole comes to mind as the example of supporting all the conservative hot-buttons but being too honest to win their affections.)

        And, as others have pointed out, it’s worth noting how much of conservative policy and philosophy are based on demonstrable falsehoods. Everything from economic policy (trickle-down despite 35 years of failure) to foreign policy (if we just keep killing all of their friends and relatives, those towel-heads will eventually come to love us) is based on stuff that even a few moments thought shows is complete nonsense.

        • Warren Terra

          how much of conservative policy and philosophy are based on demonstrable falsehoods

          You say this, but the Conservatives and their friends the Only True Scotsmen would beg to differ.

  • I’m missing the point of the story. 150 kids walk out of a second exam, and somehow they’re the dishonest ones, not the guy (or woman) who set them up? Why would you even make up such a stupid story?

    • muddy

      He started at the conclusion, where he dreamed himself some kind of hero. Then he just threw in some random background to try to get back to that point, the only one he is trying to make. It doesn’t really matter what the details as long as he deeply feels it. In fact it is probably more authentic than factual stories, because of his deep feels.

      • sparks

        It sounds like a story a third-grader would tell.

        • FlipYrWhig

          “Principal Skinner and Mrs. Krabapel were in the closet making babies and I saw one of the babies and then the baby looked at me.”

          • Jason

            I won the money in a truth telling contest, two towns over.

            • The Harold Hill look-alike contest?

        • JonH

          It is the kind of story a shitty pastor would tell.

      • weirdnoise

        Hell, I’ve had a dream just like this. Except that in the end I looked down and discovered I wasn’t wearing pants.

    • Judas Peckerwood

      Consider his target audience.

    • postmodulator

      I’m missing the point of the story.

      Assumes facts not in evidence. (The way you guys all talk is rubbing off on me.)

  • brad

    I’m starting to get a jv Reagan feel about Carson and his lies. As has been pointed out, he’s quite possibly more grifted than grifter, and he can even grift himself and end up believing something he should know he made up. The only thing, I think, which will sink him with his base would be sex, drugs, or rock n roll. And one thing you do have to say for the guy is he doesn’t evidence the predatory nature of, say, a Gingrich. He really is someone who’ll listen to a recorded sermon to unwind, and the fundies feel that. He uses applied ignorance to achieve that placid, medicated state which strikes all the rest of us as sign of possible mental impairment.
    The lies won’t matter, my hope is that the batshit stupid stuff like, as Josh Marshall noticed, saying scientists think aliens built the pyramids will prove too much for the rest of that base to swallow. What could really derail Carson is becoming a punchline even inside the party tent.

  • The OP picture shows young man forced to choose between artisanal popcorn topping and his mother’s home cooking.

    Hey, blame B Spen, not me.

  • Warren Terra

    Out of curiosity I used Amazon’s Look Inside feature to read the relevant two pages of Gifted Hands; then, because I’m a nice person (and because the opacity of this mystifying story has bothered me since I first tried to read what the heck it was about), I transcribed those two pages for anyone else similarly confused. Fair warning, it’s a bit long:

    Lack of money constantly troubled me during my college years. But two experiences during my studies at Yale reminded me that God cared for and would always provide for my needs.
    First, during my sophomore year I had very little money. And then all of a sudden, I had absolutely no money – not even enough to ride the bus back and forth to church. No matter how I viewed the situation, I had no prospects of anything coming in for at least a couple of weeks.
    That day I walked across the campus alone, bewailing my situation, tired of never having enough money to buy the everyday things I needed; the simple things like toothpaste or stamps. “Lord,” I prayed, “please help me. At least give me bus fare to go to church.”
    Although I’d been walking aimlessly, I looked up and realized I was just outside Battell Chapel on the old campus. As I approached the bike racks, I looked down. A ten-dollar bill lay crumpled on the ground three feet in front of me.
    “Thank you, God,” I sai as I picked it up, hardly able to believe that I had the money in my hand.
    The following year I hit that same low point again – not one cent on me, and no expectations for getting any. Naturally I walked across campus all the way to the chapel, searching for a ten-dollar bill. I found none.
    Lack of funds wasn’t my only worry that day, however. The day before I’d been informed that the final examination papers in a psychology class, Perceptions 301, “were inadvertently burned.” I’d taken the exam two days earlier but, with the other students, would have to repeat the test.
    And so I, with about 150 other students, went to the designated auditorium for the repeat exam.
    As soon as we received the tests, the professor walked out of the classroom. Before I had a chance to read the first question, I heard a loud groan behind me.
    “Are they kidding?” someone whispered loudly.
    As I stared at the questions, I couldn’t believe them either. They were incredibly difficult, if not impossible. Each of them contained a thread of what we should have known from the course, but they were so intricate that I figured a brilliant psychiatrist might have trouble with some of them.
    “Forget it,” I heard one girl say to another. “Let’s go back and study this. We can say we didn’t read the notice. Then when they repeat it, we’ll be ready.” Her friend agreed, and they quietly slipped out of the auditorium.
    Immediately three others packed away their papers. Others filtered out. Within ten minutes after the exam started, we were down to roughly one hundred. Soon half the class was gone, and the exodus continued. Not one person turned in the examination before leaving.
    I kept working away, thinking all the time, How can they expect us to know all this stuff? Pausing then to look around I counted seven students beside me still going over the test.
    Within half an hour from the time the examination began, I was the only student left in the room. Like the others, I was tempted to talk out, but I had read the notice, and I couldn’t lie and say I hadn’t. All the time I wrote my answers, I prayed to God to help me figure out what to put down. I paid no more attention to the departing footsteps.
    Suddenly the door of the classroom opened noisily, disrupting my flow of thought. As I turned, my gaze met that of the professor. At the same time I realized no one else was still struggling over the questions. The professor came toward me. With her was a photographer for the Yale Daily News who paused and snapped my picture.
    “What’s going on?” I asked.
    “A hoax,” the teacher said. “We wanted to see who was the most honest student in the class.” She smiled agin. “And that’s you.”
    The professor then did something even better. She handed me a ten-dollar bill.

    • Tyro

      “Let’s go back and study this. We can say we didn’t read the notice”

      There’s some “notice” that Carson seems to have inadvertently skipped in his anecdote that would help the story make more sense.

      This all hinges on some kind of “honesty” that the students would be required to adhere to, but that doesn’t appear in the story. This sounds like how he is re telling a joke but missed to crucial part that is required for the punch line to make sense.

      • Lost Left Coaster

        The writing is about as thick, and evocative, as a forwarded chain email.

        • wjts

          It does read like a “Marine Todd” b-side, yes.

        • Exactly my thought. It reads like he’s writing his own urban legends.

    • Hogan

      The punch line is, of course, the ten dollars.

      He is my Lord, he is my savior
      And he rewards my good behavior

    • Crusty

      Reading it for real now, it is even more ridiculous.

      We wanted to see who was the most honest student in the class? Why? And that’s how you do it? By doing something shitty to them?

      Oh, just fuck this guy. Enough. Weirdo.

    • Warren Terra

      Needless to say, a whole bunch of aspects of this don’t ring true or have been proven wrong:
      1) No such class
      2) No such photo
      3) I think we can assume no corroboration by the more-than-a-score of supposed witnesses
      4) Writing an exam is a pain in the keister, you’re not going to do it twice (and one especially hard) for a lark or a cheap trick
      5) The supposed dishonest scheming of the students wouldn’t work for everyone; even if all were so inclined, some would know they’d been recognized by the professor entering the exam, and others would have talked to the professor or assistants, so were on record knowing about the exam.
      6) There are always some annoying blow-the-curve hotshots who will ace any exam, or think they will, especially at someplace like Yale. They’re not getting scared off and indeed will take joy from others’ struggles with the exam.
      7) Beyond that, a fair proportion of people aren’t cheaters, or just recognize that their efforts will be treated fairly.
      8) I admit that I don’t know about exams in Yale nor in ~1972-3, but I’ve never heard of a final exam that wasn’t proctored / had limited assistance available, especially with 150 students.
      9) Did Yale really even have any 150-person, 300-level psychology courses?
      10) Note that it’s a matter of record (though not public record) what courses Carson did take; also, I’m betting that in the early 1970s Yale didn’t have a lot of women teaching upper-level undergraduate psychology.
      11) “psychiatrist”, not “psychologist”? Huh?

      etcetera …

      • Tyro

        It is the kind of story that someone who heard of college but had never actually attended one would imagine happens.

        • Warren Terra

          Carson went to Yale, obviously, but his “co-author” Cecil Murphey was an undergraduate in somewhat less distinguished halls:

          After his discharge from the Navy, he did his undergraduate work in the Chicago area, receiving his Bachelor of Religious Education from Chicago Bible College and his BA in Education from Pestalozzi-Froebel Teachers College

          Neither one of those is necessarily a bad school (and he went on to to graduate degrees at better-known institutions later), but with that background he could easily retain all sorts of weird notions about what happens in more established universities.

          • alex284

            So it’s possible that this is the first Carson has heard of this story in its published form? Could he be so lazy that he didn’t even read the books he had ghost-written?

          • In that connection, I notice that news media still cling to the polite fiction that Donald Trump writes his own tweets, except for the ones where the joke flops, which are the work of interns.

            • Based on what I’ve heard about Trump’s tendency to personally respond to negative news coverage via fax, I am perfectly willing to believe that he does most of his own Twitter stuff. The interns might dig up stuff for him to retweet, I guess.

        • Hogan

          In other words, Carson’s audience.

      • alex284

        About profs leaving during an exam, I’ve seen it (although in smaller classes).

        And clearly this one had a good reason – she had to go get the press to take pictures of Ben Carson, the Single Awesomest Person in the World!

      • Warren Terra


        dammit, meant to say more-than-a-gross. It’s always fun actually to use weird numbers/quantities like “a gross” or “a fortnight”, etcetera.

        • Hogan

          My car gets forty rods to the hogshead and that’s the way I likes it.

          • Bill Murray

            that’s even worse than Rolling Coal gets one.

      • jon98101

        5) The supposed dishonest scheming of the students wouldn’t work for everyone; even if all were so inclined, some would know they’d been recognized by the professor entering the exam, and others would have talked to the professor or assistants, so were on record knowing about the exam.

        This is the most absurd part of the story – the teacher is present in a room full of students as 150 exams are passed out, but the students think they can just leave en masse and say they didn’t get the ‘notice.’ Maybe students number 150 and 149 might have thought that was a great idea, but by the time it was down to just Mr. Carson and seven others, the flaws of this otherwise rock-solid plan must have become apparent.

      • Hogan

        Merely corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.

    • alex284

      Well, that at least explains the “honesty” part. The WsJ could have summarized that story better.

      Still, I don’t get it. Why would a prof care who the most honest student is, and go through so much trouble to find out?

      How did she know that the other students left because of dishonesty if she wasn’t in the room to hear their comments?

      If the students were really that dishonest, why didn’t they just work on the test together or open books or otherwise cheat because there was no proctor?

      Does Carson really think that a debatable interpretation of the results of one trial of an oddly-constructed experiment would prove anything in the social science world (actually…)?

      Do profs hand out $10 bills on a campus where many students wouldn’t even care about that amount of money? I never saw a prof hand students money (who weren’t doing actual work for them or who weren’t disbursing a stipend of some kind) in any campus I’ve been on.

      Wouldn’t a prof who is apparently obsessed with honesty be bothered by how she lied to (excuse me, “hoaxed”) 150 people?

      • Hogan

        This just shows the lengths to which God will go to get a sawbuck into deserving hands. Don’t ruin it.

      • alex284

        Also: This entire story is supposed to prove not only that Carson is honest, but that he’s one of the most honest people ever. Proven with a story that he made up, a story that involves a teacher who wants to encourage honesty by lying to 150 people.

        It’s a complex set of ironies there.

        • Crusty

          The story also provides an opportunity to put down 149 other “elites” at Yale.

          • Hogan

            I was just thinking that–Ivy Leaguers are all liars and cheats except for me, and I can prove it.

      • Ben buried the lede:

        absolutely no money – not even enough to ride the bus back and forth to church

        All this piffle was written with one, specific, uncritical audience in mind.

        • Warren Terra

          Well, yes. Carson’s “co-author” is so thoroughly steeped in Christian evangelism as to make Carson look like a complete heathen by comparison.

          • So Carson could take the approach of “Ultimate responsibility is mine but co-author’s mistake”. Going on past form, however, he won’t. Remember the “surgical malpractice” accusations, and Carson’s response that “A nurse left a sponge inside the patient’s skull? Mistakes are unpossible, we must have meant to do that.”

            • Lee Rudolph

              “We are here at the Department of Neurosurgery of Johns Hopkins Hospital, where we’ve secretly replaced the fine brain Dr. Benjamin Carson usually has with Sponge-Bob Squarepants. Let’s see if anyone can tell the difference!”

      • FlipYrWhig

        Why would a prof care who the most honest student is, and go through so much trouble to find out?

        I think it’s supposed to be that the whole thing was contrived by the professor to be a psychological experiment.

    • the final examination papers in a psychology class, Perceptions 301, “were inadvertently burned.”

      Presumably there is a proper time and procedure for burning the exam papers, which was not followed in this case.

      • Bill Murray

        in engineering, that would be after the end of the 5 year accreditation cycle

      • Warren Terra

        I have heard that public universities routinely destroy the letters of recommendation they have received at the end of the admissions process, because they don’t want these confidential communications archived anyplace they could be subject to freedom-of-information legislation. But I don’t think exams would typically be handled similarly, and especially not in ~1973.

      • dmsilev

        Bluebooks are like American flags: the only proper method of disposing of a used one is respectfully burning it.

    • Mike G

      This reads like the Fundie version of a Penthouse Forum story, in which the hero’s smug moral superiority is lorded over everyone else.

      • JonH

        “Oh Ben,” gasped the photographer, “your probity is enormous!”

    • Lost Left Coaster

      My lord that is such transparent horseshit (to mix metaphors) that one doesn’t even have to fact check it…

    • brad

      It took a second glance for me to not scroll down to the beginning of the test story and read it all, and I see why you left that part in. We’re all, as rational people with near universal experience with academia, focused on the extreme implausibility of the story about a class which has already been documented not to exist. But the point is God giving young Carson two $10 bills, so to question the story is to question faith, in a way. That He worked in such an inefficient manner seemingly designed to flatter Carson’s ego is simply proof that He favored him.
      The question I’m left with is whether this skillful manipulation is intentional or comes from that profound a degree of narcissism. And I’m not sure why, but I think it troubles me more that it’s likely the latter.

      • Derelict

        Assuming story No. 1 is true, I’m still at a loss to figure out how $10 held him through “a couple of weeks.” Even in the early ’70s, ten bucks wasn’t a lot of money. I have to assume our hero ate food at least occasionally. And he had that church habit to support.

        • Warren Terra

          The West Egg Inflation calculator puts it at a bit more than $50 in today’s money. Not much to eat on for weeks, but on the assumption he was living in the dorms and eating on a meal plan it’s not at all bad walking-around money, especially if he’s teetotal (I’m not sure he is, but he’s strongly identified with the Seventh Day Adventists, who advocate abstention from Alcohol, Caffeine, Meat, and Fun).

          • Hogan

            Alcohol, Caffeine, Meat, and Fun

            All four of the major food groups? How do they even survive?

          • JonH

            (I’m not sure he is, but he’s strongly identified with the Seventh Day Adventists, who advocate abstention from Alcohol, Caffeine, Meat, and Fun).

            Thus the need to make shit up to pad out his book. Hard to write a biography where nothing much ever happens.

        • Vance Maverick

          I imagine he ate in the cafeteria, which (in 1982 at least) required you to show a card, not pay cash.

          ETA: sorry, “dining hall.”

      • cleter

        God could have just left a 20 the first time and saved the hassle of having to manipulate that professor into all that rigamarole.

    • IM

      Did Carson start out as a Readers Digest writer?

      Or did he crib the story from there?

    • Gregor Sansa

      Is it possible there’s some grain of truth there? Like, he got $10 for being part of a psych experiment in which his submissiveness was put to the test?

      • Warren Terra

        Well, if so, so what? He clearly cared a lot about the tenners God was handing him, but to the rest of us that isn’t really the point.

      • One thing seems clear, $10 is a bit of a tic. He could only apply to one school (Yale) because the admission fee was $10 and he had exactly $10. Etc. etc.

        • Hogan

          $10 is a bit of a tic


        • Marek

          Ten dollars, ten commandments… WAKE UP SHEEPLE!!!11!

    • cleter

      What two pages are they, do you recall?

  • The Invisible Hand

    That’s not lying you silly liberals, that’s Allegory.

    Always the teacher that Dr. Carson.

    • Hogan

      Parable, really. Or a parabola. One of those.

      • Hyperbolae.

        • Ken


      • Warren Terra

        Whichever one stores more grain.

      • Mike G

        It’s a parable, like the many transparently horseshit stories in the bible that fundies are conditioned to believe literally.

        The point is not whether the story is true or not, but to proclaim your allegiance to the group by publicly stating your belief in it. The more horseshit the story, the stronger your demonstrated ‘faith’.

        Carson is playing on the fundies conditioned obedience to authority and absorption of ‘facts’ as a loyalty test instead of conditioned upon truth and evidence. Dangerous, but not dumb.

    • that’s Allegory

      …on the banks of Denial.

  • Crusty

    Aside from the pathological lying, there seems to be something very peculiar going on with Dr. Carson.

    Carson first rose to prominence as a pediatric neurosurgeon. To his credit, once upon a time, he seemed to think that his success as a surgeon came down to remarkable hand eye coordination, and an ability to think in 3-D. Neither of those are great character traits or moral qualities. Other people with great hand eye coordination include Tiger Woods, Alex Rodriguez, Michael Jordan, etc. (I’m not trying to name scoundrels, just talented athletes). And then at some point, Carson morphs into some kind of leader figure, it seems perhaps at the behest and encouragement of others, for whatever reason, including being bowled over by the idea that someone so accomplished and talented could be black, and better yet, a black guy who doesn’t like Obama or liberals. So he transforms into this big religious, moral leader (while all the while having major character flaws) all on the basis of hand eye coordination and the ability to think in 3-D. I mean, it goes back to the old Michael Jordan is not a role model just because he can dunk a basketball discussions. But Michael Jordan never ran for president, he just tried to play baseball.

    So Carson is now selling himself not as a talented surgeon, but as some kind of remarkable figure, who submitted to retaking some dumb test (the story is obvious bs as pointed out by others because it makes no sense), was offered a “scholarship” to west point because someone in authority who met him was immediately taken with him, etc.

    So now he’s selling himself as some sort of special figure, almost a spiritual guru/moral prodigy type, even though he once had the sense to sell himself as a guy who just happened to be good with a scalpel.

    What a strange dude.

    • alex284

      That’s a good point. The skill set used in neurosurgery is clearly different from the one used in politics.

      My guess is that he’s an egomaniac (didn’t he “write” like 6 books in 2 years? of which at least some were autobiographical. he must really like the sound of his own voice, especially when it’s talking about himself) like many top doctors, and he just thinks that the rest of us simpletons need his guidance, his terrible, terrible guidance.

      Lying is OK because the rubes aren’t going to figure it out and, anyway, it’s for their own good. I think his half-asleep mannerisms are just that, mannerisms, and that he’s not really half-asleep at all and he thinks he’s really just too cunning.

      • keta

        I think it’s very telling that Carson has been, by far, at his most animated when responding in the past day or two to questions about the veracity of some of these whoppers.

        His mewling yesterday morning about how Obama (Obama! fercrissakes!) wasn’t vetted to a similar high degree and then doubling down on the very same “fact” last night have been the only two times in his primary run when he’s shown any liveliness, spark or emotion.

        As you and Crusty note, this type of behaviour reveals a person whose ego and sense of self-righteousness is far, far greater than in most, and points up just how unfit he is for public office.

        That he and Trump, the two political outsiders who command two of the biggest egos seen in this forum in some time, continue to outpoll their primary rivals is proof-positive that many Republican supporters have shed any pretence of sober, sane leadership and instead prefer hollow peacocks that spout and reinforce their petty, parochial grievances.

        It must be a tough time to be a sensible Republican, watching your party implode from a dearth of ideas and substance. Life and times march forward, and watching the right try to deny this truism is absolutely delicious, especially since they’re soaking in the toxic bath they themselves prepared.

    • SatanicPanic

      Other people with great hand eye coordination include Tiger Woods, Alex Rodriguez, Michael Jordan, etc. (I’m not trying to name scoundrels, just talented athletes).

      OK, I don’t want to put too fine a point on this, but can’t you find some white dudes to add to this list?

      but regardless of whatever stupid shit Carson or any other doctor believes no one who passes organic chemistry should ever have his intelligence compared to Tiger Woods or A-Rod. I’ve never once met a doctor that wasn’t obviously smarter than those two.

      • efgoldman

        can’t you find some white dudes to add to this list?

        Theodore Samuel Williams.

      • Crusty

        Gosh, you’re a moron.

      • frylock

        I’m not sure why you think that A-Rod and Tiger are dummies, but it strikes me as trivially obvious that they are smarter than many, many doctors. And I don’t mean to denigrate doctors, it’s just that in a group of millions, there’s always going to be some pretty stupid people, organic chemistry or no.

  • petesh

    Keith Richards has a better story, from his autobiography:

    Gus [his grandfather] once asked me (when I was about five or six years old) while out for a stroll:
    “Have you got a penny on you?”
    “Yer, Gus.”
    “See that kid on the corner?”
    “Yer, Gus.”
    “Go give it to him.”
    “What, Gus?”
    “Go on, he’s harder up than you.”
    I give the penny.
    Gus gives me two back.
    The lesson stuck.

    Keef for President! Oh, rats, not eligible.

    • Crusty

      There should be a Keef amendment.

    • matt w

      …and that’s how Keith Richards learned about the fiscal multiplier.

    • Hogan

      And I gave those two pennies away so Gus gave me four, and so on. By the end of the day I was richer than the Windsors.

      • Breadbaker

        Or the Ponzis

      • Ahuitzotl

        and Gus died in the poorhouse

      • JonH

        And that kid on the corner became his dealer.

  • Crusty

    Thought I’d share, just for fun. Nothing particularly interesting, but a Ben Carson mention on the Wire.


  • Tyro

    Carson is a really, really weird guy. That’s what I have learned from all these stories about him.

  • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

    Why he’s positively Reaganesque. St Ronald was a serial fabulist, he would telling flattering yarns about himself that were much further from the truth than what Carson’s done (telling veterans he saw combat in WWII when the closest he ever got was Santa Monica). Even worse, Reagan got caught doing it constantly, and it didn’t matter (hence The Teflon President). There’s a book that does an incredible job cataloging his lies chronologically – IIRC it was called “The Emperor Has No Clothes”

    • Tyro

      “The Clothes Have No Emperor: A Chronicle of the American 80s” by Paul Slansky

      • and it didn’t matter (hence The Teflon President)

        It didn’t matter because pundits and journamalists chose to ignore it. Then they coined the term “Teflon Presidency” to describe their own chickenshit laziness.

  • Crusty

    The whole thing reminds me of the end of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory where Willy Wonka asks them to leave the factory, Grandpa George is angry and exclaims, if Slugworth wants a gobstopper, he’ll get one, Charlie walks back, places the gobstopper on Wonka’s desk and Wonka exclaims Charlie, you’ve won! I’m giving you the factory! Except here, its ten bucks.

    • guthrie

      Which version of the story is that? One of the films?

      (I’m british, only the book is canon)

      • Crusty

        The 1971 Gene Wilder film. Wikipedia tells me that this aspect of the story was inserted by the author of the screenplay and wasn’t in the book. Slugworth, a Wonka competitor approaches Charlie and asks him to sneak an everlasting gobstopper out of the factory. Charlie refuses to do it. I read the book once, but have seen the Gene Wilder movie approximately one zillion times.

  • Crusty

    I’ve already thought way too much about this, but-

    Why would the professor seeking to find out who is the most honest of them all say that the exams were burned? Why not just say lost? Or destroyed? Burned?

    Where are the corresponding reports of 149 Yale students being expelled or otherwise disciplined for attempting to cheat on a psych exam?

    • Derelict

      Young Ben Carson in my hall,
      You are most honest of them all!
      Reward you’ll have above all men.
      A newsie picture! And this ten!

  • brad

    I have to admit I’m enjoying trying to think of what they’ll come up with to address this one. The closest to a plausible version I can think of is it was a paid study by the psych or soc department. Along the lines of we’ll pay you x to take a short survey, they pay the students up front, then pass out what turns out to be an incredibly long, detailed, and overly personal form, and make a show of vacating the premises such that the participants know they don’t need to do the study to leave with the money. And what was really being studied was how long it took them to get fed up and/or take advantage and leave. Carson ended up being the only one in his session to actually complete the study and the prof behind it was so impressed that she or he tossed the kid something extra.
    But that’s a long way from the story he told.

    • Crusty

      And the payment for participating in the survey/study was ten bucks.

    • Derelict

      And even that doesn’t pass the smell test. What, exactly, would such a study, uh, study? How long it takes for students to get bored and leave when there are no constraints?

      • brad

        I know, I’m just trying to think plausible, not likely. Maybe a postgrad moral philosophy mixed discipline type thing. In my day I’d just say it was a cog sci study, but that’s decades later.

        • Derelict

          I’m trying to imagine the presentation to the IRB on this.

          • Hogan

            If it actually happened the way he says it did, it’s part of the reasons we have IRBs.

            • brad

              Basically I’m just reimagining a sequence from Community here, when John Oliver’s character tested a group of students on how long they’d wait.
              Again, my goal was more plausible, not likely.

  • Fortunado

    The thing that will sink him with his base is the fact that he did research on aborted fetal tissue using the type of samples that Planned Parenthood was supposedly selling. This story was briefly reported over the summer and surprisingly never took off.

  • Tyro

    Regardless of whether the “liberal media” have it in for Ben Carson, the fact remains that the other candidates definitely have it in for him and will try to bring him down by any means possible. There is more bad news for Carson to come, and the campaigns of Trump, Jeb, et al. are going to feed it to the press.

  • Pingback: Ben Carson’s Stories | Ethics Alarms()

  • Jesus approves of Carson. There’s proof.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      the j-man seems to be saying, “can you *believe* this guy?”

    • Lee Rudolph

      I find it striking that in the double portrait the two men have very similar skin tones, considerably lighter (to my eye) than Carson’s in the single portrait or in his photographs, but rather darker than the standard-issue Jesus I’m most familiar with in both European fancy-pants and American popular religious art. The beards are very similar as well. Huh.

      • Nice save on the misplaced reply.

        • Lee Rudolph

          One tries.

    • jon98101

      Ha, the third picture down has a quote from “poverbs”[sic].

    • Earlier I saw someone tweet out that Carson with Jesus photo and captioned it something like “One of these two has a more believable back story”.

  • Lee Rudolph
  • Cheerful

    For anyone still following this thread, here’s the answer:


    Carson was misremembering a joke played on students by a parody newspaper, who set up a fake test. Needless to say, nearly all the details Carson remembers are wrong.

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