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Ben Carson Only Endorsed Quack Nutritional Supplements A Tiny Bit, For 10 Years
Just because I'm in a video with their logo in the corner doesn't mean I have an involvement with them
Dr. Ben Carson would like everyone to know he definitely was not a pitchman for the sketchy nutritional supplements company Mannatech for 10 years. No involvement with that company at all. He only gave a couple speeches on the company's behalf. And made a video touting the benefits of its products. And said he was so certain that its products helped cure him of prostate cancer. And continued to pitch Mannatech, even after it settled a lawsuit accusing the company of making false medical claims.
Other than THAT, saying Dr. Ben Carson was "involved" with the company is propaganda, as he explained during Wednesday's GOP Big Kids' debate.
CNBC debate moderator Carl Quintanilla asked Carson this totally unfair and loaded question, which Carson didn't like, not one bit:
Quintanilla: There’s a company called Mannatech, a maker of nutritional supplements, with which you had a ten-year relationship. They offered claims that they could cure autism and cancer. They paid $7 million to settle a deceptive-marketing lawsuit in Texas and yet your involvement continued. Why?
Carson: Well, it’s easy to answer. I didn’t have an involvement with them. That is total propaganda and this is what happens in our society. Total propaganda.
Well, then! Guess that settles that! Stop your darn propaganda! Oh, except maybe he did have a tiny, eensy, itty-bitty involvement with the company, maybe:
I did a couple of speeches for them. I did speeches for other people, they were paid speeches. It is absolutely absurd to say that I had any kind of relationship with them. Do I take the product? Yes. I think it’s a good product.
Carson next pulled a bottle of Mannatech nutritional powder from his jacket pocket, turned to the camera, and explained that it should be a vital part of every health-conscious American's daily routine, just like getting enough sleep and exercise. "It's much better than Cats! I'm going to take this stuff again and again!"
Then he once again denied any connection to Mannatech -- that's Mannatech, ask for it by name -- and when Quintanilla pointed out the company used Carson's image on its website, he denied that he'd given permission for that. Quintanilla asked if maybe the whole thing might "speak to your vetting process or judgment in any way?" Before Carson could finish answering, the crowd booed Quintanilla, dragged him from the stage, and tarred and feathered him. "They know," Carson said approvingly, to cheers.
As we discussed way back in January, Carson's involvement with Mannatech is no secret, inconvenient though it might be now. National Review covered his long involvement with the company, which went well beyond giving a couple of speeches and liking the product. He did a remarkably cheesy promotional video for the company in 2013, with -- yes -- its logo right next to him, though apparently it snuck in there without his permission:
You want a money quote from that video? Here is a money quote!
The wonderful thing about a company like Mannatech is that they recognize that when God made us, He gave us the right fuel. And that fuel was the right kind of healthy food. You know we live in a society that is very sophisticated, and sometimes we’re not able to achieve the original diet. And we have to alter our diet to fit our lifestyle. Many of the natural things are not included in our diet. Basically what the company is doing is trying to find a way to restore natural diet as a medicine or as a mechanism for maintaining health.
Politifact points out that even in those "paid speeches" for Mannatech, Carson went well beyond merely showing up and explaining how being a brain surgeon gave him insight into the Holocaust. He spoke a bit more intimately about how wonderful Mannatech products were:
"I started taking the product, and within about three weeks, my symptoms went away," adding that he toyed with the idea of using only the supplements, rather than undergoing cancer surgery. He said in the remarks that it would be inappropriate for him to be an official spokesman or sales associate, but he does refer people to Mannatech.
Gosh, no involvement there. For what it's worth, Politifact gave Carson's statement that he "didn’t have an involvement with" Mannatech a rating of "False," apparently withholding its harshest "Pants on Fire" rating because he didn't own the company or have a formal endorsement contract.
Slate goes a tad bit further, calling Carson's answer to Quintanilla "one of the most convoluted, nonsensical, bald-faced lies of the entire campaign. And that’s saying something." As Media Matters writer Oliver Willis notes, you might even call Carson's debate answer "bearing false witness," which we remember has been mentioned as a bad thing somewhere. If only there were some stone tablets in front of a courthouse to remind Carson of that.
The world-renowned brain surgeon clearly knows his association with a company that Texas -- as in no-regulations-ever TEXAS, for Chrissake! -- sued for making false medical claims looks bad. In that National Review piece, Carson's business manager, Armstrong Williams, does his best to distance Carson from Mannatech, claiming that his paid appearances were just like any other speech he contracted for through the Washington Speaker’s Bureau, but also adding that Carson wouldn't be answering any questions about his connections to the company, "because that is the decision that has been made."
Williams also claimed that "our lawyers are on top of" Mannatech's use of Carson on its websites and videos, but that doesn't change the fact that Dr. Ben Carson has said a lot of glowing stuff -- one might even call it propaganda -- about a company whose products are pseudoscientific snake oil.