As the white-hot spotlight continues to burn on retired neurosurgeon and alternate universe West Point cadet Ben Carson, BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski tried to do his part to pull Carson’s feet out of the fire a little bit by tweeting part of an old Parade article in which Carson’s mother says that the stabbing story “really happened.”
Here's Carson's mother in a 1997 profile of the Ben Carson play saying the stabbing incident happened by the way… pic.twitter.com/WifmQsMJlJ
— andrew kaczynski🤔 (@KFILE) November 9, 2015
Here’s that portion of the Parade Magazine article from 1997:
A young actor recreated the moment when, at 14, Ben Carson pulled a knife on a classmate and tried to stab him in the abdomen. Only the other boy’s metal belt buckle kept Ben from cutting him and going to prison instead of to Yale. “Oh, that really happened,” Sonya told me. “I sat him down and told him that you don’t accomplish much by being a bully. You accomplish more with kindness than you ever do by being harsh.” Sonya realized that the violence of the streets could easily ensnare her sons, and she made it her job to ensure that that would not happen.
While some, like Mediaite’s Joe Concha, are taking this as corroboration, all it really means is that Carson told her the same story (or stories) he told everyone else. If Kaczynski had read a little further, however, he’d have discovered that Sonya Carson directly contradicts the most important element of that anecdote.
In case you’re not familiar with the story, here is every permutation of it that Carson has ever told in his books, and here are several of the times he talked about it on television or in speeches, dating back to 1991. One detail that has remained constant is the climax of the story, which has him locking himself in the bathroom and discovering his favorite book of the Bible, Proverbs (or as his contractor would say, “poverbs”).
Another story that Carson repeatedly rotates into his speeches is the tale of how his mother, Sonya, forced Carson and his brother to read instead of watching TV or going outside to play (presumably this included some special dispensation for throwing rocks at cars). Here’s how Carson remembers it in his speeches, consistently placing the time frame in “grade school”:
Indeed, Carson’s mother told Parade magazine in that same 1997 profile that her methods were so effective, her boys even became ashamed of her:
Ironically, because she insisted that her boys do well in school, they soon grew chagrined at her lack of education. “My boys were ashamed of me, yes, they were,” she admitted. “They would say, ‘Mom, why can’t you speak in such-and-such a way?’ I would say to them, ‘Teach me. If you can’t teach me, don’t criticize me.”
Carson’s mom confirmed the details about her reading and television policies, but she also told the reporter something that clearly contradicts what Carson has been saying for all these years (emphasis mine):
For starters, she made her boys come home and do homework, and she limited them to just two TV programs a week. The rest of their spare time, she decreed, would be spent reading. “They didn’t like that very much,” she recalled with a gentle laugh. But Sonya Carson made that dictate stick, even though she couldn’t keep up with her children. “Both of my boys could read much better than I could,” she told me. “So I had them read me my favorite book, the book of Proverbs. Then I asked them to explain to me what they had read.”
So, according to Sonya Carson, Ben Carson had been reading and explaining Proverbs to her for at least four years by the time the alleged stabbing story took place, which means Ben Carson could not have discovered Proverbs as he sat in that locked bathroom for three hours. Proverbs clocks in at 9,921 words, which means that even if Carson only read to his mother on school days, he would have gotten through the entire book of Proverbs by only reading 13 words to her a day.
Whatever you think happened with the actual stabbing, it turns out that Carson made up the most plausible part of the story, if you believe Mrs. Carson. Fortunately for Ben Carson, most reporters don’t know a Proverb from a poverb, so he probably won’t get asked about it, but at the very least, Buzzfeed ought to make a note of it.