Dr. Ben Carson flatly rejected a CNBC moderator’s questions about his ties to a medical supplement company during Wednesday night’s Republican presidential debate.
But Carson’s responses were just “bald-faced lies,” according to National Review’s Jim Geraghty, who reported on Carson’s ties to Mannatech Inc. earlier this year.
The retired neurosurgeon first spoke at a Mannatech event in 2004 and continued speaking at the company’s conferences over the next decade, according to Geraghty’s report. Carson also spoke about the health benefits he felt he’d gotten from taking Mannatech’s supplements in a video for the company and touted “glyconutrients” in a 2014 PBS special. The company has also touted Carson’s experience with their products in its press releases.
Here’s a clip of the Mannatech video in which Carson touts the health benefits of the company’s supplements:
CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla asked Carson about his relationship to Mannatech during the debate. He pointed out that the company, which claimed to cure autism and cancer with its products, settled a deceptive marketing lawsuit for $7 million.
“Does that not speak to your vetting process or judgement in any way?” Quintanilla asked to loud boos from the audience.
“No, it speaks to the fact that I don’t know what’s going on,” Carson dodged.
Carson also denied having given Mannatech permission to put his image on the homepage of its website and claimed he had “no involvement” with the company.
“I didn’t have an involvement with them. That is total propaganda, and this is what happens in our society. Total propaganda,” Carson said. “I did a couple of speeches for them. I do speeches for other people. They were paid speeches. It is absolutely absurd to say that I had any kind of a relationship with them. Do I take the product? Yes. I think it’s a good product.”
Watch the exchange between Carson and Quintanilla:
Geraghty called those statements “bald-faced lies” in a column published Thursday.
“Mannatech wanted to improve its image and happily paid Carson, one of the country’s greatest neurosurgeons…to appear at their events and to appear in the company videos,” he wrote. “They put his face all over their web site (sometime between my story and now, those images were taken down). Carson’s lack of due diligence before working with the company is forgivable. His blatant lying about it now is much harder to forgive.”
Indeed, archived versions of Mannatech’s homepage show that Carson’s image, which appeared on the company’s website as recently as Jan. 16, had been removed by Feb. 7. Geraghty’s report was published on Jan. 12.
Mannatech’s homepage as it appeared on Jan. 16, 2015. Image via Internet Archive
Carson’s campaign manager, Barry Bennett, recently told The Wall Street Journal that he demanded Mannatech remove all mentions of the candidate earlier this year. Mannatech said the newspaper’s inquiries prompted it to remove some additional videos of Carson, too.
Mannatech also told the newspaper that Carson was never a paid spokesperson for the company. Carson’s business manager, Armstrong Williams, had told Geraghty earlier this year that he didn’t know that Carson ever had a “compensated relationship with the company.” He also told Geraghty that Carson’s speeches at Mannatech events were booked through the Washington Speaker’s Bureau.
In his Thursday column, Geraghty dismissed that defense as “a semantic argument about what constitutes an endorsement.”
The booing debate audience may have been able to write off the Mannatech exchange as another example of the CNBC moderators’ perceived liberal bias. But it’s pretty hard to ignore that a prominent conservative writer like Geraghty is calling BS on Carson’s disavowal of Mannatech, too.
Correction: This post has been updated to reflect that Geraghty called Carson’s claims “bald-faced lies.”