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Sometimes even neurosurgeons make questionable moves.
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson’s campaign said that he was never awarded a “full scholarship” to the prestigious U.S. Military Academy at West Point, despite previous statements to the contrary. Now the candidate says the offer of admission was more informal in nature.
But the West Point storyline, which became an issue after a Politico report Friday, is only the most recent political misstep or controversial viewpoint to come to light since the retired doctor soared toward the top of the polls for the GOP nomination.
Here’s a look back at some of Carson’s more contentious statements over the years.
1998: Egyptian pyramids were built to store grain
Carson does not believe that the Egyptian pyramids were built as tombs for the country’s pharaohs.
“My own personal theory is that Joseph built the pyramids to store grain,” Carson said while delivering a commencement address at Andrews University, a Michigan college affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church. “Now all the archaeologists think that they were made for the pharaohs’ graves. But, you know, it would have to be something awfully big when you stop and think about it, and I don’t think it’d just disappear over the course of time to store that much grain.”
“It’s still my belief, yes,” Carson said. “The pyramids were made in a way that they had hermetically sealed compartments. You wouldn’t need hermetically sealed compartments for a sepulcher. You would need that if you were trying to preserve grain for a long period of time.”
Ben Carson speaks in Lakewood, Colo., on Oct. 29. (Photo: David Zalubowski/AP)
2011-present: Evolution is a lie encouraged by Satan
Even though he is a retired doctor, Carson rejects Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, which is the central unifying principle of modern biology.
As a Seventh-day Adventist, Carson believes in the Young Earth creationist theory that God created all life on Earth about 6,000 years ago. But Carson does not stop there. He has implied that the devil is behind evolution.
“I personally believe that this theory that Darwin came up with was something that was encouraged by the adversary, and it has become what is scientifically, politically correct,” Carson said during a speech at an event called Celebration of Creation in 2011.
During an interview with the Adventist Review, Carson said God and evolution are mutually exclusive and that accepting evolution eliminates morality.
“For if there is no such thing as moral authority, you can do anything you want. You make everything relative, and there’s no reason for any of our higher values,” he said.
Carson later backpedaled and admitted that evolutionists could be moral, accusing others of taking his words out of context.
Nearly 500 Emory University professors, students and alumni signed a letter voicing concerns over Carson’s creationist beliefs when he was selected to deliver a commencement address in 2012. They feared his medical accomplishments would lead others to view him as someone who “understands science.”
October 2013: Obamacare is slavery
Carson compared President Obama’s Affordable Care Act to slavery during a speech at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., in October 2013.
“You know, Obamacare is really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery,“ Carson said. “And it is in a way, it is slavery in a way, because it is making all of us subservient to the government, and it was never about health care. It was about control.”
February 2015: There are no rules for war
Carson said there should not be rules for how the U.S. Armed Forces conducts itself during times of war.
“Our military needs to know that they’re not going to be prosecuted when they come back because somebody has said, ‘You did something that was politically incorrect,’” he said during an appearance on Fox News. “There’s no such thing as a politically correct war. We need to grow up. We need to mature. If you’re going to have rules for war, you should just have a rule that says no war. Other than that, you know, we have to win. Our life depends on it.”
Carson appears at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials convention in Las Vegas on June 17. (Photo: Steve Marcus/Reuters)
March 2015: Homosexuality is a choice
Carson said that people can “absolutely” choose whether to be gay or straight and pointed to prison to illustrate his point.
“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?” he said during an interview on CNN.
Later that day, Carson released a statement apologizing for his comment, saying that it does not completely reflect his stance on gay issues.
“I do not pretend to know how every individual came to their sexual orientation,” the statement reads. “I regret that my words to express that concept were hurtful and divisive. For that I apologize unreservedly to all that were offended.”
September 2015: There are ‘way too many’ vaccines
Carson pointed out that numerous studies show there is no correlation between vaccines and autism when asked about the issue during the second Republican presidential debate in September.
But the retired pediatric surgeon toned down his defense of vaccines a bit by saying that fewer vaccines should be administered, much to the chagrin of the medical community.
“It is true that we are probably giving way too many in too short a period of time,” Carson said. “And a lot of pediatricians now recognize that and I think are cutting down on the number and the proximity in which those are done, and I think that’s appropriate.”
November 2015: The Founding Fathers had no political experience
Carson, who has never held elective office, invoked the Founding Fathers to make the case that political experience is not the most important quality in choosing a president.
“Are we sure political experience is what we need. [sic] Every signer of the Declaration of Independence had no elected office experience,” he wrote on Facebook Wednesday.
This is patently untrue.
Afterward, Carson’s original post was updated to say that they had “no federal elected office experience,” which is obvious because there was not yet a federal government.
Carson is neck and neck with Donald Trump in the latest polls on Republican presidential nomination contenders. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/AFP)
November 2015: Transgender people ‘make everybody else uncomfortable’ in public restrooms
When Fusion reporter Jorge Ramos asked Carson if transgender people should be able to choose whether they use men’s or women’s restrooms, the conservative leader suggested installing a third option.
“How about we have a transgender bathroom?” he asked. “It is not fair for them to make everybody else uncomfortable. It’s one of the things that I don’t particularly like about the movement. I think everybody has equal rights but I’m not sure that anybody should have extra rights.”
November 2015: I was offered a full scholarship to West Point
Politico reported Friday that West Point has no record of Carson applying for admission, let alone being extended an offer, as he claimed in his book “Gifted Hands.”
Theresa Brinkerhoff, a West Point spokeswoman, told the political website that the academy has no records indicating that he even started the application process.
“If he chose to pursue [the application process], then we would have records indicating such,” she said.
Later that day, Carson told the New York Times that the offer was informal.
“I don’t remember all the specific details. Because I had done so extraordinarily well, you know, I was told that someone like me — they could get a scholarship to West Point. But I made it clear I was going to pursue a career in medicine,” he said to the New York paper.
“It was, you know, an informal ‘with a record like yours we could easily get you a scholarship to West Point.’”
Going forward: Inspiration under the microscope
Carson has recounted his inspirational biography in books and speeches for the past few decades. More and more of his stories are coming under closer scrutiny as his campaign continues.
Later Friday, The Wall Street Journal wrote of the difficulty confirming or disproving these anecdotes because they took place back when Carson was a young man. Any inconsistences threaten to undermine his truthfulness in the eyes of voters just learning about him now.
As the Journal reports, Carson claims to have protected several white students at his Detroit high school during riots following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He also says he was the only student not to storm out of a college psychology class after his professor told the class that they needed to retake their final exams, and he says he attempted to stab a boy in the stomach whom he later identified as a close relative, among other narratives.
“There’s no facts saying they are not true. We are guilty until proven innocent,” said Barry Bennett, Carson’s campaign manager. “You have no reason to believe that they are not true. There’s no evidence to point to the fact that they are even questionable.”
With additional reporting by Yahoo News’ Chris Wilson and Gabby Kauffman.