During Tuesday night’s Republican debate, Donald Trump and the other GOP presidential contenders mostly avoided Ben Carson’s fracas last week with the campaign press. But by Wednesday evening, Trump was again needling his rival front-runner — and even defending the intense press scrutiny of the former neurosurgeon’s biography.
In an interview with conservative radio host Mark Levin, Trump was challenged over his repeated citations of reporting from Politico and other news organizations that questioned whether Carson inflated or manufactured elements of his life story.
After the Carson campaign contested elements of the original story, Politico changed the headline and affixed an editor’s note to the piece stating the news organization “stands by its reporting.” Still the piece has been harshly criticized on the right.
Trump, who has had his own repeated run-ins with the press, defended Politico.
“They’re really using stuff that he said, though, you know, in all fairness to … Politico,” Trump said, referring to reporting that has focused on Carson’s 1990 autobiography, “Gifted Hands,” and on statements Carson has made in public forums over the course of a long medical career.
“Ben was talking about, I guess he wrote a book — probably before he thought he was going to run for office, to be honest with you,” Trump said. “He talked about … wanting to hit his mother over the head with a hammer. You know, I never had those thoughts, in all fairness. And neither did you. And, you know, other things. Hitting a friend, his best friend in the face with a padlock. That’s pretty bad.”
Asked if he thought Carson was “mentally off,” Trump said, “I hope not. I don’t know.”
Trump said he gets along with most of the GOP field, including Carson.
“First of all, I like him. You know I was with him last night. I’m standing next to him last night. I’m friendly with all of these guys,” Trump said. “There’s a couple of them I don’t like very much to be honest with you.”
Carson accused the press of lying after Politico and other news organizations questioned the 64-year-old retired neurosurgeon’s repeated use of the word “scholarship” to describe overtures from military officials who encouraged him, as a promising young Detroit high school student, to consider attending the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Carson also pushed back against CNN and the Wall Street Journal, which ran additional stories challenging details in the candidate’s 1990 autobiography.
With about 25 percent each, Carson and Trump are running neck and neck in the latest Real Clear Politics composite of national polls in the GOP presidential race.