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Ben Carson backs off West Point scholarship claim

WASHINGTON — Republican White House hopeful Ben Carson was not offered a formal scholarship to the United States Military Academy at West Point as he wrote in his autobiography, his campaign said Friday.

Carson, a newcomer to national politics, has developed a passionate following based in part on an inspirational personal story and devotion to Christian values. The only African-American in the Republican 2016 class, Carson grew up in inner-city Detroit and often speaks about his brushes with violence and poverty during his early years.

His campaign on Friday sought to clarify a statement in his breakout book, “Gifted Hands,” in which he outlines his participation with the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, commonly known as ROTC, 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. As overjoyed as I felt to be offered such a scholarship, I wasn’t really tempted.”

Campaign spokesman Doug Watts said Carson was “the top ROTC student in the city of Detroit” and “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,” Watts said.

Students granted admission to West Point are said to earn appointments to the military academy, which comes with tuition, room and board and expenses fully 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 if they chose not to pursue completion of the application process.”

The story was first reported on Friday by Politico.

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