Ben Carson’s campaign has denied a key assertion in The Politico’s story about Carson’s relationship with the West Point military academy, calling the paper’s reporting an “outright lie.”

The story, published Friday, concerns two anecdotes Carson has written about in at least two of his books: 1) meeting a high-ranking general as a teenage ROTC student and 2) being offered, and ultimately declining, a scholarship to West Point.

In his best-selling novel, “In Gifted Hands,” Carson describes meeting General William Westmoreland in 1969. In the passage, he clearly describes seeing the general at a Michigan parade and describes having dinner with him after the event. “Later,” Carson writes, “I was offered a full scholarship to West Point.”

At the end of my twelfth grade I marched at the head of the Memorial Day parade. I felt so proud, my chest bursting with ribbons and braids of every kind. To make it more wonderful, we had important visitors that day. Two soldiers who had won the Congressional Medal of Honor in Viet Nam were present. More exciting to me, General William Westmoreland (very prominent in the Viet Nam war) attended with an impressive entourage. Afterward, Sgt. Hunt introduced me to General Westmoreland, and I had dinner with him and the Congressional Medal winners. Later I was offered a full scholarship to West Point. I didn’t refuse the scholarship outright, but I let them know that a military career wasn’t where I saw myself going. As overjoyed as I felt to be offered such a scholarship, I wasn’t really tempted. The scholarship would have obligated me to spend four years in military service after finishing college, precluding my chances to go on to medical school. I knew my direction – I wanted to be a doctor, and nothing would divert me or stand in the way. Of course the offer of a full scholarship flattered me. I was developing confidence in my abilities – just like my mother had been telling me for at least he past ten years.

West Point tuition, it should be noted, is free. And nowhere in the passage does Carson specifically indicate he applied for admission—an assertion he seems to preclude when he writes, later in the book, that he applied to only one school, which was Yale.

But to the lay reader, Carson’s claim that he was offered a “full scholarship” indicates he either applied and was accepted and offered a full scholarship, or that the general offered him something exceptional. Which is what the campaign “would argue strongly” is precisely what happened.

“He was introduced to folks from West Point by his ROTC Supervisors. They told him they could help him get an appointment based on his grades and performance in ROTC. He considered it but in the end did not seek admission,” Carson’s campaign manager Barry Bennett clarified in a statement Friday forwarded to Gawker by Carson’s deputy press secretary, Stephanie Marshall. “There are ‘Service Connected’ nominations for stellar High School ROTC appointments. Again he was the top ROTC student in Detroit. I would argue strongly that an Appointment is indeed an amazing full scholarship. Having ran several Congressional Offices I am very familiar with the Nomination process.”

Carson, in an interview Friday with the New York Times, suggests something slightly different: “It was, you know, an informal ‘with a record like yours we could easily get you a scholarship to West Point.’”

Whether Carson was actually offered some sort of special appointment or was merely told he would get in if he applied, it does seem clear at least part of the anecdote contradicts public records. According to Politico, Army records show the general was playing tennis in Washington D.C. the day of the parade in question.

Again, the Carson campaign has an explanation—Carson doesn’t remember exactly what happened.

“Dr. Carson was the top ROTC student in the City of Detroit,” Bennett said. “In that role he was invited to meet General Westmoreland. He believes it was at a banquet. He can’t remember with specificity their brief conversation but it centered around Dr. Carson’s performance as ROTC City Executive Officer.”

Did Carson exaggerate the story or are readers willfully misinterpreting his language? It depends on who you ask.

But here’s a problem that seems less ambiguous: Politico specifically claims in their story that Carson’s campaign admitted the story was false. The paper does not provide a direct quote to support the contention.

“When presented with these facts, Carson’s campaign conceded the story was false,” Politico reports in a line still included in the story, which has been edited since its publication.

That contention, Carson spokesperson Doug Watts tells CNN, is an “outright lie.”

“The campaign never ‘admitted to anything,’” Bennett says.

Requests for comment from the author of the Politico piece, Kyle Cheney, were not immediately returned.

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