WaPo ignores truth in attack on Ben Carson

The Washington Post didn't let the truth stand in its way in its recent attack against Dr. Ben Carson


SAN JOSE, Calif.,  June 11, 2015 – Dr. Ben Carson announced his candidacy for POTUS on May 4 in Detroit, and since that time there have been several attempts to attack his capability or his credibility. The attacks have a couple of things in common: they are aimed at taking Carson down, but they fail to convince the average reader. While the attempts may do a lot to stir up the followers of some of the hard-core opponents of Dr. Carson, the realities show that he is continually gaining grassroots support over a widespread swath of the political landscape.

The more recent attempt at casting doubt upon the Carson America campaign came from the Washington Post on June 5. That article attempted to “reveal” that the Carson campaign “has been rocked by turmoil with the departures of four senior campaign officials and widespread disarray among his allied super PACs.”

WaPo: Carson campaign in widespread disarray. Says who?

Yet, after reading the Post article, it causes one to wonder whether the Post should have assigned better writers if the intent was to cast doubt about the Carson campaign. The writers, Robert Costa and Phillip Rucker, seemed to be leading readers to the conclusion that the Carson campaign was doomed from the beginning. However, from beginning to end, the article could be classified as sensationalism or “yellow” journalism. 

The term refers to a period of journalism that was characterized by a sensationalist style of publishing, fueled by a rivalry between two of the most famous American publishers in the nation’s history: Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst. These two were locked in competition in the profit-driven media industry.  Just prior to the Spanish-American War, Hearst and Pulitzer went so far as to occasionally print extreme articles that ultimately were lies. This sold a lot of papers for both publishers.

Perhaps the Washington Post is in need of greater revenue and readership at the expense of the truth. The two writers had an opportunity to portray the truth and decided not to.

The article primarily deals with an effort to portray the “campaign… marked by signs of dysfunction and amateurism…” with the conclusion that such chaos is “alarming supporters who privately worry that Carson’s sprawling circle of boosters is fumbling his opportunity.” It zeroes in on the departure of Terry Giles, the former campaign chairman of the USA First PAC, and insinuates that Giles resigned due to internal dysfunction. Yet Terry Giles’ effort to provide accurate information about his resignation fell upon deaf ears. Giles wrote, “The article you released yesterday is a perfect example of one of America’s most serious issues–the lack of journalistic integrity… I spoke to you at length before you wrote this article only to have you ignore real facts so that you could promote your own sleazy agenda.”

Giles’ letter went on to challenge the allegations, saying, “For you to claim that the Carson campaign is in turmoil because myself and three of my very close friends and colleagues have adjusted our role in assisting Dr. Carson to better fit our skill sets is wrong on so many levels that it defies logic and common sense.”

Benjamin Carson and his uphill political battle

A transcript of Dr. Carson’s announcement speech on May 4 reveals that one of the first things on Carson’s agenda as he announced his intent to officially seek the GOP acceptance to run for president was his re-assignment of Terry Giles to a more long-term objective:

Now that we are transitioning from… an exploratory committee, I have asked Terry if he would take the lead in helping to select the people who will be able, who have had enormous experience with business and with making things work,  so that we can transition our government from this inefficient thing that we have into something that really works and something that works the way it is supposed to, according to our constitution.

Of course, certain journalists often do not let facts get in the way of their fabrications. If one can shovel dirt instead of dealing with reality, why worry about truth? A very good example of that was the now infamous Rolling Stone story, “A Rape on Campus,” which went viral after (notice the irony here) the Washington Post publicly questioned the veracity and credibility of the story published in Rolling Stone in November of 2014.  Initially, there were reports that some representatives of the Rolling Stone were a bit miffed that their credibility had been questioned and defended the fabricated story. However, to the credit of Will Dana, managing editor at Rolling Stone at the time, he wrote in April of this year:

As we asked ourselves how we could have gotten the story wrong, we decided the only responsible and credible thing to do was to ask someone from outside the magazine to investigate any lapses in reporting, editing and fact-finding behind the story. We reached out to Steve Coll, dean of the Columbia School of Journalism…  and we promised to publish their report…With its publication (being finished at that time), we are officially retracting “A Rape on Campus.” We are also committing ourselves to a series of recommendations about journalistic practices that are spelled out in the report…

As noble as this all is, the fabrication was spun and the tale told, and at the time, the story went viral. Sabrina Ederly, the writer of the story was besieged with telephone calls and attention. The Stone retraction in April revealed, “The online story ultimately attracted more than 2.7 million views, more than any other feature not about a celebrity that the magazine had ever published.” How many readers do you think saw this righteous retraction or viewed the report from Steve Coll? The tale was told, the lie was spread. And sadly, the truth was trampled. Again, one needs to go back to the realm of yellow journalism to understand why. Sensational stories sell! Big media is about business.

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Despite noble gestures of reports on becoming better journalists, the reality of sensationalist journalism persists. A case in point is the Post article on the Carson America campaign. The fact remains whether the Washington Post will care to even manifest the appearance that it cares about honest journalism. It may be that the writers earned a bonus for their creative endeavor.

Giles did make a serious effort to offer the truth and it was rejected. Dr. Ben Carson was in Boone, Iowa, on June 6 and Breitbart News captured his comments regarding the Post article as he repelled the claims that there was “turmoil” inside his campaign: “Any teacher who wants to teach their students what yellow journalism is should use that Washington Post article — that’s all it is — yellow journalism.”

It would be very interesting to see if the Washington Post bothers to practice what it preaches and do the only responsible and credible thing:  to initiate an official retraction, or at least an apology for their attempt at coverage of the Carson America campaign. It would be amazing if the Post could manifest the appearance of professionalism by initiating a report that might recommend better journalistic practices. Yet one should not hold hopes too high. Be sure to note that the report that Rolling Stone initiated (presumably to mend poor public relations) formulated a series of recommendations – whether anyone bothers to adhere to them is another story.

Meanwhile, on the Real Clear Politics website today, in the Ohio GOP presidential primary poll, Dr. Carson came in second to favorite son Gov. Kasich. Carson tied with Scott Walker for second place in that poll. Kasich received 19 percent to Carson and Walker, who each received 13 percent, while Bush and Rubio each received 12 percent. All other GOP hopefuls were in single digits if they even made a significant showing. So, if Carson’s campaign is in turmoil, what would that say about all of the other contenders’ campaign efforts?

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Dennis Jamison reinvented his life after working for a multi-billion dollar division of Johnson & Johnson for several years. Now semi-retired, he is an adjunct faculty member at West Valley College in California. He currently writes a column on US history and one on American freedom for the Communities Digital News, as well as writing for other online publications. During the 2016 presidential primaries, he worked as the leader of a network of writers, bloggers, and editors who promoted the candidacy of Dr. Ben Carson. He founded the “We the People” Network of writers and the Citizen Sentinels Project to pro-actively promote the values and principles established at the founding of the United States, and to discover and support more morally centered citizen-candidates who sincerely seek election as public servants, not politicians.