Former Yale Corporation fellow Ben Carson ’73 dropped out of the presidential race on Friday after launching a campaign that spun out in the past few months, hitting its peak of support in the fall.
At the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, Carson — an acclaimed neurosurgeon who was seeking the Republican nomination — announced that he would exit the race to take on a role as chairman of My Faith Votes, a nonprofit organization focused on mobilizing Christian voters. On March 2, Carson’s campaign released a statement saying that the candidate did “not see a political path forward” in light of disappointing Super Tuesday results, adding that he would not participate in the Republican primary debate scheduled for the next day. Carson was one of two Yale graduates running for president, the other being Hillary Clinton LAW ’73, who is still seeking the Democratic nomination.
“There’s a lot of people who love me, they just won’t vote for me,” Carson said in his speech Friday.
Carson majored in psychology at Yale and was in Davenport College. From 1997 to 2003 he served as an alumni fellow on the Yale Corporation.
Carson saw his greatest levels of political support among evangelical Christians and social conservatives in the months leading up to the Republican primaries, but failed to convert his early support into votes. He finished with just eight delegates of 1,237 needed to secure the nomination.
A political conservative, Carson’s policies stand in stark contrast to those of most Yale students. In a News survey administered to the class of 2019 in August, 66 percent of incoming freshmen described their political views as either “very” or “somewhat” liberal, with only 12 percent identifying as “very” or “somewhat” conservative.
Emmy Reinwald ’17, who attended CPAC this past weekend, said she supported Carson’s candidacy but ultimately voted for Sen. Marco Rubio in the Virginia primary, citing Carson’s lack of political experience as a critical weakness in his resume. However, at one point during Carson’s Friday address, Reinwald said she yelled out “Yale loves you” as a demonstration of support for the politician.
“He was a great guy, but he wasn’t a campaigner,” Reinwald said. “Even for the Yalies who don’t support his politics, I think we can all respect what he’s done as a person, what he’s done as a doctor and with his life.”
Reinwald added that despite Carson’s close involvement with the University over the years, his ties to Yale did not play an important role in his campaign.
Other students interviewed highlighted a controversy that emerged in the fall concerning Carson’s time at Yale. In November, The Wall Street Journal reported that Carson had embellished or made up events in his 1990 autobiography, in which he wrote that a Yale psychology professor had administered a hoax “Perceptions 301” exam to identify the most honest student in the class. Carson wrote that his professor, claiming that the students’ exams had “inadvertently burned,” distributed a mock exam that every student in the class except Carson refused to take upon seeing that it was significantly harder than the previous one.
However, Claryn Spies, a Yale librarian, told The Wall Street Journal that there was no psychology course by that name or class number during Carson’s time at Yale. An article published in the News on Jan. 14, 1970 said the Yale Record had published a parody issue of the News the day prior, in which they reported that a series of Psychology 10 exams had been destroyed and a make-up was scheduled that evening in William L. Harkness Hall. Carson attributed the discrepancies to working with a co-author on the book and inaccuracies in his memory caused by the passage of time.
Alaric Krapf ’19, who identifies as a conservative, said Carson probably should have suspended his campaign earlier, as he has not enjoyed serious popularity since the fall. Krapf said Carson was not popular among Yale students but was not necessarily less popular than other Republican candidates.
“I think Yalies — and modern liberal college students in general — condescend to Carson, sometimes for good reason,” Krapf said. “He’s certainly had his share of gaffes. Yalies have the same distaste for him that they have for all conservatives, with an added element of derision due to his lack of political suaveness.”
Likewise, Alex Brod ’19, who said he was neither a Democrat nor a Republican, characterized Carson’s support on campus as “nonexistent.”
There are four Republican candidates remaining in the race for the party’s nomination: Rubio, Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. John Kasich.
Shuyu Song contributed reporting.