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Full interview:Ben Carson on CNN Chris Cuomo on "New Day." [11/06/15]

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Ben Carson, the soft-spoken, Yale-educated brain surgeon who has surged in the GOP presidential race, has written and spoken powerfully of divine intervention at several pivotal moments in his life.

At the core of his narrative of spiritual redemption are his acts of violence as an angry young man — stabbing, rock throwing, brick hurling and baseball bat beating — that preceded Carson’s sudden transformation into the composed figure who stands before voters today.

In his 1990 autobiography, “Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story,” Carson describes those acts as flowing from an uncontrollable “pathological temper.” The violent episodes he has detailed in his book, in public statements and in interviews, include punching a classmate in the face with his hand wrapped around a lock, leaving a bloody three-inch gash in the boy’s forehead; attempting to attack his own mother with a hammer following an argument over clothes; hurling a large rock at a boy, which broke the youth’s glasses and smashed his nose; and, finally, thrusting a knife at the belly of his friend with such force that the blade snapped when it luckily struck a belt buckle covered by the boy’s clothes.

“I was trying to kill somebody,” Carson said, describing the incident — which he has said occurred at age 14 in ninth grade — during a September forum at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.

But nine friends, classmates and neighbors who grew up with Carson told CNN they have no memory of the anger or violence the candidate has described.

Ben Carson’s career in politics
13 photos: Ben Carson’s career in politics
That person is unrecognizable to those whom CNN interviewed, who knew him during those formative years.

All of the people interviewed expressed surprise about the incidents Carson has described. No one challenged the stories directly. Some of those interviewed expressed skepticism, but noted that they could not know what had happened behind closed doors.

Gerald Ware, a classmate at Southwestern High School said he was “shocked” to read about the violence in Carson’s book.

“I don’t know nothing about that,” said Ware, who still lives in southwestern Detroit. “It would have been all over the whole school.”

CNN was unable to independently confirm any of the incidents, which Carson said occurred when he was a juvenile.

Ben Carson is pictured third from the left. 
Ben Carson is pictured third from the left.
Carson’s campaign adviser and business manager, Armstrong Williams, declined repeated requests by CNN to provide details about the history of violence Carson has described, including the identities of his alleged victims and witnesses. CNN also asked the campaign for documentation of any disciplinary actions that resulted.

“Why would anyone cooperate with your obvious witch hunt?” Williams wrote in an email last Friday. “No comment and moving on…… Happy Halloween!!!!!”

CNN contacted the campaign once again Wednesday afternoon to share its findings and received the same response.

In a media availability during his book tour in Florida on Thursday after publication of CNN’s piece, the network’s Sunlen Serfaty asked Carson about the investigation and why CNN could not find anyone who could corroborate the story.

“I don’t want to expose people without their knowledge, but remember, when I was 14, when the knifing episode occurred, that’s when I changed, that’s when most of the people I talked to began to know who I was, they didn’t know me before then,” Carson said.

CNN interviewed people for this report who knew Carson as early as elementary school.

Serfaty later reminded Carson that CNN spoke to elementary, junior high and high school classmates who knew him throughout his life and that none of them could recall violent incidents. Carson then responded that the only people who would know about the encounters were the people who were victims.

“‎Why would anybody know about, you know, private incidents like that?” Carson said. “I was generally a nice person. It’s just that I had a very bad temper so unless you were the victim of that temper why would you know?”

‘No exaggeration’
Carson’s improbable rise from an impoverished childhood in Detroit to become one of the top pediatric neurosurgeons in the nation has been a cornerstone of his appeal to voters of all political persuasions. In a December 2014 Gallup poll, he was ranked as the sixth-most admired man in America, behind President Barack Obama, Pope Francis, and former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

Carson, a Seventh-day Adventist, has connected to evangelical voters in part by describing his own spiritual journey.

He said he has felt the hand of God at several key moments in his life, including a dramatic near-miss traffic accident and receiving an A-grade on a chemistry exam for which he felt badly unprepared.



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