Ben Carson: “It Depends on Your Definition of a War Hero”

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Ben Carson
Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Donald Trump’s recent comments that Sen. John McCain, who spent more than five years as a POW at the ironically nicknamed “Hanoi Hilton” during which he suffered physical and psychological torture, “not a war hero” were offensive enough to prompt condemnations from all of his Republican primary rivals. All, that is, except for Sen. Ted Cruz and retired Hopkins neurosurgeon Ben Carson. 

Cruz managed to abstain from the pile-on with a degree of rhetorical finesse. Carson, on the other hand, flubbed his lines, big time.

Trump’s remarks came during his speech at the Family Leadership Summit. A speech from Carson immediately followed. After Carson got off the stage he declined to condemn Trump’s insanely politically incorrect assessment of McCain’s war record. Fine. But when asked point-blank whether he considered McCain a “war hero,” Carson dodged.

“It depends on your definition of a war hero,” he answered. Which is nice and existential but also makes him sounds like a college student who didn’t do the reading.

My mind keeps searching for a reasonable definition of “war hero” that McCain wouldn’t fit. I got nothing.


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  1. This whole line of thinking has me baffled. How inappropriate to question what that man experienced and what else would you call him? These candidates are really sinking low.

  2. I’m going to take a wild guess Mr. O’Brien and bet you never served a day in the military and another wild guess and say you hate Ben Carson.
    Did you know that normally only the top 10% of the graduating class at Annapolis are considered for flight school but that McCain graduated in the bottom 5 students in his class but still got into flight school how could that be? Did you know not one POW who was incarcerated with McCain wrote a single positive word about McCain prior to his run for President and there were many POW’s who wrote about their experiences? Read the book Chained Eagle by LT Everette Alverez the second longest held POW and considered the best account of the Hanoi prisonsin which McCain is not mentioned once even in the addendum which acknowledges every POW that was held. Did you know that some fellow POW’s accused McCain of receiving special privileges and turning his back on other prisoners? Trump wasn’t afraid to say what he said because he knows there are a lot of stories which McCain doesn’t want retold.

    • I have not served in the military. (Though I don’t see what that has to do with it.) I do not hate Ben Carson. 1 for 2. I disagree with the premise of your complaint here. There is much contradictory information out there regarding McCain’s time as a POW, sure. Vested interests abound, and the vast majority of articles casting doubt on McCain’s story of of his imprisonment are from fringe sources, so it’s difficult to evaluate the claims. But I don’t think that that doubt ties into the Trump comments or into Carson’s dodge. Trump, who has almost never publicly apologized for anything, did not clarify his McCain statements with an explanation like yours. He flatly denied having said he wasn’t a war hero, then saying he called McCain a hero four times, and dug into McCain’s legislative career.

      You can read interesting fact checks of those statements here:

      He has gone on to slam McCain again for his poor showing at the U.S. Naval Academy, but never that I’ve heard has he cited skepticism over McCain’s time as a POW as an explanation for his comments. And this is someone who was willing to be the public face of the Obama Birther Movement and read Lindsey Graham’s phone number in public.

      The upshot is I think that you are giving Trump — and by extension, Carson — too much credit.

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