In an angry press conference on Friday, Republican presidential frontrunner Ben Carson attempted to defend himself against news reports that he has misrepresented his past, including claims that he had been offered a full scholarship to West Point, by accusing the press of not sufficiently examining a series of conspiracy theories about President Barack Obama.
“I do not remember this level of scrutiny for one President Barack Obama when he was running,” Carson observed. “In fact I remember just the opposite. I remember people saying, ‘Oh we won’t really talk about that. We won’t talk about that relationship. Well, Frank Marshall Davis, well, we don’t want to talk about that. Bernardine Dohrn, Bill Ayers, well we don’t really know him. All the things that Jeremiah Wright was saying, oh, not a big problem.”
“[Obama] goes to Occidental College, doesn’t do all that well, and somehow ends up at Columbia University,” Carson asserted. “Well… his records are sealed. Why is his record sealed? What are you not interested in why his records are sealed? Why are you not interested in that? Let me ask you that. Can someone tell me why, please?” He then demanded to know “how there is equivalency [sic] there” between “something that happened with the words ‘a scholarship was offered’ was a big deal, but the president of the United States, his academic records being sealed, is not.”
Obama’s relationships with people like Ayers and Wright were, in fact, widely scrutinized in the 2008 campaign.
After Fox News hosts like Sean Hannity repeatedly raised questions about the former Weather Underground members, George Stephanopoulos asked then-Senator Obama directly about his relationship with Ayers during an April 16, 2008 debate. Obama responded that Ayers is now “a guy who lives in my neighborhood, who’s a professor of English in Chicago,” and that “the notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8 years old, somehow reflects on me and my values doesn’t make much sense, George.” Still, GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin attacked him for “palling around with terrorists” in the final weeks of the general election.
The Washington Post’s examination of Obama’s relationship with Davis, an activist and purported member of the Communist Party who died in 1987, noted that their last known interaction was when the future president was a college freshman. Reverend Wright, Obama’s controversial former pastor, continues to be a focus of right-wing media interest to this day. Obama and his top 2008 primary opponent each denounced Wright for his inflamatory comments, garnering widespread national media coverage.
Were Carson familiar with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, he would know that federal law protects the privacy of all students’ educational records and that his own educational records would also be protected, only to be released to the public if he opted to do so.
But Carson has made it clear that he believes knowledge of public policy is not essential to be president. “There are a lot of policies that I lack knowledge on,” he told reporters during a book signing on Thursday. “I’m gaining knowledge. But I don’t by any stretch of the imagination confess to knowing everything. That’s the reason you have advisers. … It’s a false narrative that you have to know everything.”
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