UPDATE: Dec. 31, 2015, 2:00 PM ET
Two top aides to Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson resigned from the campaign and predicted a wave of departures to come Thursday, casting the troubled campaign into uncertainty with just a month until the Iowa caucuses.
Campaign manager Barry Bennett and communications director Doug Watts resigned over conflict with Armstrong Williams, a Carson adviser the campaign has said has no official role, according to the Des Moines Register. In a statement provided to NBC News, Watts said the resignations are effective immediately.
“Barry Bennett and I have resigned from the Carson campaign effective immediately,” he said. “We respect the candidate and we have enjoyed helping him go from far back in the field to top tier status…We are proud of our efforts for Dr Carson and we wish him and his campaign the best of luck.”
The Register later reported Deputy Campaign Manager Lisa Coen had also left the campaign.
Days before Christmas, Armstrong and Williams invited The Washington Post and Associated Press for a sit-down at the candidate’s Maryland home about upcoming staffing changes to the campaign – without Bennett’s knowledge, the Post reported.
“I spent the holidays hearing every day that I had lost my job,” Bennett told the Post in an interview Thursday. “My relationship with Carson was always good and friendly but being campaign manager in that kind of situation, where outside advisers are in essence driving the campaign and setting up interviews and raising questions about everything, it’s not the right atmosphere.”
Bennett said he thought airing the campaign’s dirty laundry to the press was a “stupid move,” one that Williams pushed for.
On Thursday, Williams told the Post he heard the news of Bennett and Watts’ departures on Twitter.
“There’s enough pain today, enough feelings that have been damaged in some ways,” Williams said. “I’m already being blamed, as I knew I would be, but I would never criticize Barry and Doug.”
The Post’s Robert Costa reported the campaign was in “chaos” over the news.
CHAOS: I am on phone w/ Armstrong Williams as he gets the news. Carson calling him on other phone. “Doctor? Doctor, wait a second. What?”
— Robert Costa (@costareports) December 31, 2015
Bennett also predicted a wave of campaign staffers jumping ship to a reporter from The Hill, saying “the team could be decimated” by departures.
The Des Moines Register’s Jennifer Jacobs, who first broke the story of the resignations, reported senior strategist Ed Brookover is Carson’s new campaign manager, while Williams told the Post retired Army general Robert F. Dees would helm the campaign.
Although dogged by a dip in recent polls, Carson’s campaign had just announced it raised $23 million in donations during the fourth quarter of 2015, outpacing Sen Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) reported $20 million haul.
In a statement, Carson said of the departures: “it is necessary to invigorate my with a strategy that more aggressively shares my vision.”
Ben Carson statement on campaign shakeup: pic.twitter.com/B6HxrdFNW0
— Colin Campbell (@BKcolin) December 31, 2015