At tonight’s 358th GOP debate, Ben Carson is almost certainly going to be pushed to respond to the many, many, many claims of fabulism that have been levied against the candidate in recent weeks. So many, in fact, it can be hard to keep track (especially if your name is Ben Carson). But don’t worry—we’re here to help.
On his troubled youth
Gif via Gifted Hands
The reality: No one seems to remember this enraged stabbing attempt in which Carson claims he was “trying to kill somebody.” According to one of Carson’s former classmates who CNN managed to track down: “I don’t know nothing about that. It would have been all over the whole school.”
On honest pranks
Ben Carson says: After his Yale psychology professor informed the class that he’d accidentally set each and every one of their exams aflame and that they’d now have to retake it, young Ben Carson was the only student who didn’t storm out in anger. Afterwards, according to his autobiography Gifted Hands, “The professor came toward me. With her was a photographer for the Yale Daily News who paused and snapped my picture. ‘A hoax,’ the teacher said. ‘We wanted to see who was the most honest student in the class.’” The teacher then proceeded to hand him a $10 bill, “which was even better.”
The reality: Carson alleges that he was in a class called Perceptions 301, which is a bizarrely specific level of detail to give a class that, according to The Wall Street Journal never existed in the first place. Either way, according to BuzzFeed News, Carson actually just fell victim to a prank cooked up by the Yale Daily News. A prank that he apparently decided would make great inspirational fodder for countless speeches and anecdotes.
On being a hero
Ben Carson says: Ben Carson saved a bunch of white students lives by stuffing them in a classroom to protect them from a black mob on the day of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination.
The reality: While the riot certainly happened, according to a Wall Street Journal investigation, no one contacted about any white students hiding back in their classroom, which is where Carson supposedly stashed them for safety. Carson, for his part, cannot seem to remember the names of his rescue-ees.
On the pyramids
Ben Carson says: In 1998, during a college commence speech, Ben Carson explained that his “own personal theory is that Joseph built the pyramids to store grain. Now all the archeologists think that they were made for the pharaohs’ graves. But, you know, it would have to be something awfully big if you stop and think about it.”
In what was presumably an attempt to clarify things, Carson recently reiterated to reporters, “Some people believe in the Bible, like I do, and don’t find [the theory] to be silly at all and believe that God created the earth and don’t find that to be silly at all. The secular progressives try to ridicule it anytime it comes up and they’re welcome to do that.” Well, Ben, happy to oblige.
Pyramids were definitely used as tombs: burial equipment, such as sarcophagi, jewelry, mummies or mummy parts were found in some of them. (The others were robbed in antiquity, or in a few cases the burial chambers are below the water table.)
Further proof they were tombs, not silos, is funerary text inscriptions inside chambers built around 2375 to ca 2160 B.C.E., to help the dead king in his journey to the afterworld.
On unfortunate timelines
Ben Carson says: In Gifted Hands, directly after Carson commits the alleged failed stabbing that would change the course of his life forever, Carson writes: “Already heavy into psychology (I had been reading Psychology Today for a year), I knew that temper was a personality trait.”Psychology Today at 14! What an admirable young student, you might say.
The reality: Except that, as we’ve already pointed out, this incident would have taken place somewhere between 1965 and 1966. Psychology Today, however, didn’t make its debut until 1967. An offhand, easily dismissed remark, certainly, but notable for the fact that Carson clearly wants to project an air of precociousness—regardless of whether or not its warranted.
On prison rape
Ben Carson says: Sex (consensual or otherwise) in prison is proof that homosexuality is a choice. More specifically, Carson said, “[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.”
The reality: Though he may have once been a brilliant surgeon, Carson is clearly still wildly ignorant in certain areas. In addition to just being plain incorrect, Carson also managed to minimize a huge problem in our current prison system that’s as severe as it is pervasive: high rates of rape and sexual assault. In response to Carson’s statement, ThinkProgress wrote:
...Correctional administrators reported 8,763 instances of sexual victimization in 2011.... But those were just the reported cases, and authorities often turn a blind eye to prisoners’ complaints of sexual misconduct.
Sex in prison is also a survival tactic, as many inmates engage in sexual activities to avoid brutal treatment behind bars. Just last week, the Marshall Project published a story about a 17-year-old boy who was repeatedly raped before he agreed to touch and kiss boys to avoid violent encounters in the future.
Carson did, at least, sort of kind of apologize later, saying that he does “not pretend to know how every individual came to their sexual orientation.” Except that he then also went on to reiterate his backwards views on sexuality:
I’m a doctor trained in multiple fields of medicine, who was blessed to work at perhaps the finest institution of medical knowledge in the world. Some of our brightest minds have looked at this debate, and up until this point there have been no definitive studies that people are born into a specific sexuality. We do know, however, that we are always born male and female. And I know that we are all made in God’s image, which means we are all deserving of respect and dignity.
Shoulda quit while you were ahead-ish.
Ben Carson says: He “didn’t have any kind of relationship” with Mannatech, a nutritional supplement distributor that claimed its various snake oils could cure everything from autism to cancer. In the same breath, Carson went on to say that “...it is absolutely absurd to say that I had any kind of relationship with them. Do I take the product? Yes. I think it’s a good product.”
The reality: Where to begin! Carson has (previously) openly admitted that Mannatech helped fud his $2.5 million endowment at Johns Hopkins. Though his campaign has since backtracked on that statement, claiming he merely misspoke.
But Carson also spoke to Mannatech sales associates in 2004, claiming that their supplements helped the symptoms of his prostate cancer go away “within three weeks.” And of course, there’s the video above.
Not to mention the fact that Ben Carson was on Mannatech’s website’s home page, an assertion to which Carson offered the following response at the one of the 349 GOP debates:
If somebody put me on their homepage, they did it without my permission.
On killing Medicare
Ben Carson says: First Ben Carson implied that he wanted to end Medicare and Medicaid entirely, replacing both programs with “health savings accounts.” Basically, the government would take the money currently bookmarked for Medicare and dump $2,000 per individual into an account, with one-third of the funds being left aside for any severe cases that might pop up. According to Carson, this would make “every family their own insurance company.”
Now, though, Carson is saying we’re all mistaken, because that’s the old plan. In an absolutely insane interview with Chris Wallace that is worth reading in full, Carson says a whole lot of words about his new(?) plan that mean very little at all:
CARSON: ... The Medicaid budget is $400 billion to $500 billion a year and we have 80 million people who participate, which is way too many and we can fix that by fixing the economy.
WALLACE: So, how does the health savings account work if there’s no government subsidy?
CARSON: Well, let me just tell you. I’m telling you right now, with the indigent people, 80 million into $400 billion goes 5,000 times — $5,000 each man, woman and child. What could you buy with that? A concierge practice generally costs $2,000 to $3,000 a year. And you still have a couple thousand dollars left over for catastrophic insurance, which is much cheaper now because the only thing coming out of it is catastrophic insurance.
Carson’s vague, flimsy plan which he refuses to explain is, unsurprisingly, next to impossible to implement. As Politifact explains, the government would have to give America’s senior citizens savings accounts “that would instantly reflect the value of a lifetime of savings.” Which would require laying down a lot of cash that doesn’t actually exist.
What’s more, Carson’s plan completely ignores the fact that some Americans need to spend a lot more on health care than others. A loan from a family member isn’t going to cover a surgery costing several hundreds of thousands of dollars. What’s more, Carson doesn’t go into any detail about what would happen to people currently covered under Obamacare coverage expansions. But then again, he doesn’t really go into any detail about anything at all.
On biblical tithings
Practically speaking, this would mean that everyone pays a set income tax while also closing many of the deductions and loopholes in our current tax code—a tax code which, as it stands now, is wildly complicated. Ben Carson likes his tax plan because it is not complicated at all. Unfortunately for Ben, that is not necessarily a good thing.
Basing federal tax law on a religious text is, obviously, absurd. As Slate writes, “The fact is that biblical taxes were religious obligations inextricably linked to their religious purposes, such as supporting the temple attendants and feeding the poor. They were never intended to be a model for a modern, secular tax system.”
And of course, the implementation of a tithing system isn’t totally unprecedented. It was applied (on an admittedly small scale) in the US exactly once before—by Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism. But should that plan be applied today, it would actually lead to a $1.1 trillion shortage. Which is going to be pretty inconvenient when it comes time to dump money in all those senior citizen health savings accounts.
What’s more, Carson isn’t even getting the bible right. The tax that he describes doesn’t really exist, and the ones that are there are a lot more complicated than Carson would have his plan appear. At least, that’s what it seems. Because as it stands now, the tax reform section of Carson’s website sits at just under 100 words total.