Lindsey Graham comes to Ben Carson's defense

Story highlights

  • Lindsey Graham defended Ben Carson on Saturday amid media reports about the retired neurosurgeon's past
  • "It's one hell of a story by any standard -- where he came from, what he's achieved in his life," Graham said

Washington (CNN)Lindsey Graham defended Ben Carson on Saturday amid media reports about the retired neurosurgeon's past.

"It's one hell of a story by any standard -- where he came from, what he's achieved in his life," the South Carolina senator told CNN's Michael Smerconish.
"I think the purpose of the story is to say that 'I was going down the wrong path and it was my faith, my belief in God, that turned me around,'" Graham added.
    In a story published on Thursday, CNN reported that childhood friends of Carson were surprised about violent incidents he has described in a book, public speeches and interviews and had no recollection of such events. Scott Glover and Maeve Reston spoke with nine friends, classmates and neighbors who grew up with Carson, and none had any memory of the anger or violence the candidate has described.
    On Friday, Politico ran a story claiming that the Carson campaign admitted that he "fabricated" an account of applying and being admitted to West Point -- a headline the outlet later softened.
    Carson blasted the media scrutiny Friday night, telling reporters at a press conference in Florida that "there is a desperation on behalf of some to try to find ways to tarnish me because they've been looking through everything, they have been talking to everybody I've ever known, everybody I've ever seen."
    Graham is one of a handful of 2016 GOP hopefuls to weigh in on the controversy surrounding Carson's past. Donald Trump suggested on Friday that Carson still suffers from a "pathological disease" that hasn't left the retired neurosurgeon since he was a violent youth growing up in Detroit. But New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, asked about the controversy by CNN's Jake Tapper on "The Lead" Friday, said it was up to the voters to decide whether Carson's answers about his personal stories are sufficient.
    Graham also commented on his exclusion from Fox Business Network's debate on Tuesday, as he failed to top the 1% polling average to make the undercard event.
    He told Smerconish that candidates who criticized the questions in the previous GOP debate are showing that they aren't prepared for the challenges of the Oval Office.
    "If you're gonna take on Putin, you're gonna take on ISIL, you need to be ready to answer hard questions," Graham said.
    "At the end of the day, you can't complain about being challenged for the office of president of the United States when people are challenging what you said," Graham said.
    "Now, you can push back when people are lying about what you did, or (are) putting in a bad light that's unfair," he said.
    Graham said he will be in New Hampshire during the debate, and will attempt to come up with a "creative way" to watch it.
    He also said he won't be ending his candidacy -- comparing himself to Arizona Sen. John McCain's once-lagging 2008 campaign, which gained traction and eventually led to his nomination.
    Graham has focused largely on ISIS, also known as ISIL, in Iraq and Syria, and has called for a more robust military response to the group.
    "People fighting this war don't give up, and I want to be their voice," he said.