Carson's campaign says he was never offered West Point scholarship

Carson Admits to Fabricating West Point Admission Story

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson's campaign said on Friday he never applied nor was accepted to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, apparently contradicting an account in Carson's autobiography that he had been offered a full scholarship by the prestigious school.

The admission, following doubts over some of Carson's other recollections of his youth, could be a setback for the 64-year old retired neurosurgeon's campaign, even as he is tied with rival Donald Trump at the top of Republican presidential primary polls.

SEE MORE: 'A bunch of lies': Ben Carson blasts CNN during CNN interview

The details of a scholarship were included in Carson's account of a meeting with General William Westmoreland in 1969 when Carson was a high school student in the ROTC program, which provides preliminary military training for students interested in becoming officers.

"His Senior Commander was in touch with West Point and told Dr. Carson he could get in, Dr. Carson did not seek admission," campaign spokesman Doug Watts told Reuters in an email.

In Carson's 1990 autobiography, 'Gifted Hands,' he wrote: "Later I was offered a full scholarship to West Point." He added that despite turning the offer down, "As overjoyed as I felt to be offered such a scholarship, I wasn't really tempted."

WATCH: Ben Carson tells Charlie Rose he was offered a scholarship at West Point:

Ben Carson Never Offered West Point Scholarship: Campaign

Carson's campaign said on Friday that his grades and conversations with ROTC officials constituted a de facto acceptance to the academy, which provides full scholarships to all of its students.

"Dr. Carson, as the leading ROTC student in Detroit, was told by his Commanders that he could get an Appointment to the Academy," Watts said. "He never said he was admitted or even applied."

West Point confirmed on Friday there was no record of Carson completing an application for admission. It is possible someone nominated him for the academy, but that would only have been an early step in the multi-part process of admission.

"Candidate files where admission/acceptance was not sought are retained for three years; therefore we cannot confirm whether anyone during that time period was nominated to West Point if they chose not to pursue completion of the application process," West Point spokeswoman Theresa Brinkerhoff said in an email to Reuters.

The differing accounts of Carson's West Point scholarship were first reported by political news website POLITICO, which headlined its story 'Ben Carson admits fabricating West Point scholarship.'

Ten facts you should know about Ben Carson:

Ben Carson facts you should know
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Carson's campaign says he was never offered West Point scholarship

1. He is a weekly opinion columnist for The Washington Times.

(Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)

2. He is a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and his father was a minister.

(Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

10. He and his wife started a scholarship fund called "Carson scholars fund" in 1994 which has so far awarded 6,700 scholarships to kids for "academic excellence and humanitarian qualities."

(Photo by Louis Myrie/WireImage via Getty)


Carson's campaign contested that interpretation.

"The Politico story is an outright lie," Watts said in an email to Reuters. "The campaign never 'admitted to anything.'"

The fracas over West Point came only hours after Carson attacked the media for questioning his accounts of his violent past.

"This is a bunch of lies," Carson told CNN on Friday. "This is what it is, it's a bunch of lies attempting, you know, to say that I'm lying about my history. I think it's pathetic."

Carson, who is popular with evangelical voters, often speaks on the campaign trail about his flashes of violence during his youth, casting the lessons he learned from that period as evidence he has the strength of character to be president.

In his autobiography, the renowned brain surgeon wrote that as a teen, he tried to stab a friend named Bob in the stomach with a knife but was stopped by the boy's belt buckle.

On Thursday on the campaign trail, when pressed by reporters about the incident and also in an interview with Fox News, Carson said that Bob's name, along with some other names in the autobiography, were pseudonyms that he used to protect the privacy of the people he was writing about.

He described Bob in the book as a friend and classmate. In the Fox News interview and on CNN, Carson said the boy was a "close relative."

(Reporting by Ginger Gibson; Editing by Howard Goller and Bill Rigby)

See Ben Carson on the campaign trail:

Ben Carson on the campaign trail
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Carson's campaign says he was never offered West Point scholarship
MT. AYR, IA - JANUARY 22 : Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson is introduced during his 'Trust in God Townhall' campaign stop January 22, 2016 in Mt. Ayr, Iowa. Carson, who is seeking the nomination from the Republican Party is on the presidential campaign trail across Iowa ahead of the Iowa Caucus taking place February 1. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
Ben Carson, 2016 Republican presidential candidate, speaks during a Liberty University Convocation in Lynchburg, Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. As retired neurosurgeon Carson has risen in the polls, media reports have revisited his accounts of acts of violence as a child, a key part of the redemption story he discusses on the campaign trail. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
PALM BEACH GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 06: Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks to the media before speaking at a gala for the Black Republican Caucus of South Florida at PGA National Resort on November 6, 2015 in Palm Beach, Florida. Carson has come under media scrutiny for possibly exaggerating his background and other statements he has made recently. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IA - AUGUST 16: Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson (L) eats a piece of pizza while touring the Iowa State Fair on August 16, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. Presidential candidates are addressing attendees at the Iowa State Fair on the Des Moines Register Presidential Soapbox stage and touring the fairgrounds. The State Fair runs through August 23. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
LAKEWOOD, CO - OCTOBER 29: Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks during a news conference before a campaign event at Colorado Christian University on October 29, 2015 in Lakewood, Colorado. Ben Carson was back on the campaign trail a day after the third republican debate held at the University of Colorado Boulder. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 25: Scenes around the the Value Voters Summit on September 25, 2015 in Washington DC. Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson takes the stage at the event. Dr Carson speaks to the media after the speach. (Photos by Charles Ommanney/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Attendees wait for Ben Carson, 2016 Republican presidential candidate, not pictured, to arrive during a campaign stop at the birthplace of the Michigan Republican Party in Jackson, Michigan, U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015. Carson, the third candidate in the Republican race to have never held elected office, saw his numbers drop following the debate last week. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Ben Carson, 2016 Republican presidential candidate, listens as he attends a service at Maple Street Missionary Baptist Church in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015. Carson will be speaking at the Iowa State Fair, which is expected to host 18 presidential candidates and runs until Aug. 23. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 06: Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson participates in the first prime-time presidential debate hosted by FOX News and Facebook at the Quicken Loans Arena August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The top-ten GOP candidates were selected to participate in the debate based on their rank in an average of the five most recent national political polls. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Ben Carson, 2016 Republican presidential candidate, eats a slice of pizza as he tours the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015. In a Sunday interview with Fox News, Carson doubled down on his assertion that a speech given by President Barack Obama intended to sell the American public on his nuclear deal with Iran contained 'coded innuendos employing standard anti-Semitic themes.' Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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