The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Ben Carson defends recollection of formative stabbing story

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks at a campaign rally in West Memphis, Ark. (Nikki Boertman/AP)

WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. — The rise and rise of Ben Carson, the former neurosurgeon-turned-presidential front-runner, has brought with it a version of the scrutiny that follows front-runners.

One example: A report by Gideon Resnick in the Daily Beast, irresistibly titled "Ben Carson's stabbing story is full of holes." Reading through every one of Carson's books, Resnick notes that a formative story of the future candidate changed slightly from telling to telling. In each version, Carson angrily tried to stab a boy and was thwarted by the boy's belt buckle. In some versions, the knife is described differently, or the aftermath — either Carson or the boy running away — changes.

Asked about the story today, twice, Carson used almost the same language to blow it off.

"For one thing, it happened 50 years ago — half a century ago," said Carson. "For another thing, when people record what I've said, they record it in different ways. When you've got something from 50 years ago that's told by many different people, it's sort of like the party game where you whisper to people sitting in a circle. When it gets to the original person, it's very different."

Half a day later, after a speech here, Carson got a version of the question from Buzzfeed's Rosie Gray. What explained the subtle changes in the story?

"The explanation is that it occurred over 50 years ago," said Carson. "Have you ever played that party game where you whisper into the person's ear, and then they tell it, and by the time it gets around, it's a different story? That's what we're talking about."

The versions in Resnick's account were credited to Carson, not other authors. But for the candidate, the question had been asked and answered.