Yesterday I wrote about how Ben Carson, when questioned about his boast that he would not have let the Oregon gunman shoot people so easily, came up with anecdote from his own history, presumably to dispel criticisms that he has no idea how he would actually act in such a situation.
He said that he had been in a Popeye’s restaurant in Baltimore and a gunman had come in. The gunman had stuck his gun in Carson’s ribs. What did Carson do? Carson said that he told him that he was aiming it at the wrong guy and pointed towards the hapless cashier. The well-mannered gunman said “Oh, sorry” and then confronted the cashier who gave him money and then he left.
This story stuck me as fishy from the get go. For one thing, the polite gunman seemed a little confused in a Monty Pythonish way. If he came to rob the restaurant, why would he point the gun at Carson? Was Carson dressed as a Popeye employee? And pointing the gunman towards the hapless cashier seems cowardly on Carson’s part, not quite the heroic manner he said he would have acted in Oregon. Why did Carson do that? Because he says that he knew the gunman wanted to just rob the place and not kill people and so he helped him get the job done. The whole point of this strange story seemed to be to show how calm and collected Carson would be in a crisis so that presumably he would know how to deal with Vladimir Putin. Or something.
There has been some follow up on this story and it appears that there is no corroboration to be found. The Baltimore police have not been able to find a record of it and say they need more information. You would think that Carson would be able to provide more details as to the location of the restaurant and at least the approximate date of the event. One does not easily forget such a thing. But after throwing out that story, Carson seems to not want to talk about it anymore.
Furthermore, you would think that a man who has published three autobiographies would have mentioned such a dramatic event before in at least one of them. In fact, when questioned about this story, his ‘central advisor’ Armstrong Williams referred people to one book but people pointed out that it was not there. Carson’s co-author Greg Lewis said that Carson never mentioned the story during their extensive discussions for the books. Williams suggested that Carson’s silence about this remarkable incident was due to his modesty and not liking to boast, though boasting is what Carson does repeatedly. It is also hard to make the claim that a person who writes three autobiographies does not like to talk about himself.
Corroboration of the Popeye story should not be hard. Surely Carson would have spoken about this incident with colleagues and friends and family? The other people in the restaurant may also come forward in due course. The Popeye company should also be able to document a robbery from their records. But so far, zilch.
But fortunately The Daily Show has obtained exclusive footage from the Popeye’s restaurant security cameras that support Carson’s story.
(This clip aired on October 8, 2015. To get suggestions on how to view clips of The Daily Show and The Nightly Show outside the US, please see this earlier post. If the videos autoplay, please see here for a diagnosis and possible solutions.)
It seems unlikely that Carson willfully and consciously made this story up out of whole cloth just to buttress his Oregon shooting comments. That would require a level of mendacity that would be truly unusual. It seems more likely that Carson is prone to grandiose fantasies where he plays a hero. This particular fantasy may have had its germ in an incident that occurred near where he was or that he heard about from others, and over time he has inserted himself into the story and come to think of it as real. This kind of false memory is not unusual as I have written before about Robert Krulwich. We also have the famous story Ronald Reagan told of being part of the forces that liberated one of the Nazi concentration camps at the end of World War II, though he spent the duration of the war in Hollywood and only processed film of the liberation shot by others.
But let’s see where this Carson story goes. But if he is pressed on it, I expect to see his usual evasive tactics that (a) people are wrong to focus on petty details and should look at the larger point he was making; (b) the ever-popular “they are taking me out of context” and (c) his personal favorite “it is due to political correctness”. None of these makes any sense but that is pretty standard with Carson.