PALM BEACH GARDENS — A defiant Ben Carson on Friday rejected the idea his past descriptions of receiving a scholarship offer to attend West Point were inaccurate and called questions about the veracity of the story irrelevant to his campaign for president.
"I think what it shows, and these kinds of things show, is there is a desperation on behalf of some to try to find a way to tarnish me," Carson told reporters at a news conference near West Palm Beach.
Following a story published by Politico earlier on Friday, his campaign sought to clarify Carson's story about his interest in attending the U.S. Military Academy in his breakout book, Gifted Hands, in which he outlines his participation with the Reserve Officers' Training Corps while in high school.
"I was offered a full scholarship to West Point," Carson wrote in the 1996 book. "I didn't refuse the scholarship outright, but I let them know that a military career wasn't where I saw myself going."
Students granted admission to West Point are not awarded scholarships. Instead, they are said to earn appointments to the military academy, which come with tuition, room and board and expenses paid, in exchange for five years of service in the Army after graduation.
A West Point spokesman on Friday said the academy "cannot confirm whether anyone during that time period was nominated to West Point."
Pressed by reporters Friday, Carson replied: "What about the West Point thing is false? What is false about it?" Asking if he had made a mistake in recounting the story, he said, "I don't think so. I think it is perfectly clear. I think there are people who want to make it into a mistake. I'm not going to say it is a mistake."
Hours earlier, Carson had told Fox News in an interview, "I guess it could have been more clarified. I told it as I understood it."