Over the last ten years, Ben Carson has given speeches for Mannatech, a sketchy nutritional supplement company that does not, surprisingly, produce actual snake oil. He’s appeared in infomercials. He admits the company helped fund his endowed chair at Johns Hopkins. He even endorsed their product during the GOP debate Wednesday. But one thing he denies? Having “any kind of relationship with them.” Huh?
The question came up midway through the GOP debate, when Carl Quintanilla asked if Carson’s judgment should be questioned in light of his involvement with the company—an allegation Carson categorically denied, unironically terming it “total propaganda.”
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, cancer. They paid $7 million dollars 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. 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.
This is... untrue. Carson, the Wall Street Journal pointed out earlier this month, has often made reference to a long and lucrative association with the company that he says has been good for both his career and his health.
For example: he said in a 2011 speech that Mannatech funded a portion of his $2.5 million endowed chair at Johns Hopkins. (His campaign now says he spoke incorrectly; the university says it won’t release fundraising information without the company’s consent, which has not been given.) The Journal reports he earned $42,000 for his most recent speech for the company.
And in a 2004 address to Mannatech sales associates, he claimed the company’s supplements had helped him with his prostate cancer. “Within about three weeks my symptoms went away, and I was really quite amazed,” he said in the videotaped speech. According to the Journal he told the audience he had “initially considered forgoing surgery and treating the cancer with supplements only.”
“I can’t say that that’s the reason that I feel so healthy,” Carson disclaimed in another infomercial for the company—which is literally true, legally speaking. “But I can say that it made me feel different and that’s why I continue to use it more than ten years later. The wonderful thing about a company like Mannatech is that they realize that when God made us, he gave us the right fuel. And that fuel was the right kind of healthy food.”
So how did Carson get out of addressing those inconsistencies? He pounced on the follow-up question:
Quintanilla: To be fair, you were on the homepage of the website with the logo over your shoulder.
Carson: If somebody put me on their homepage, they did it without my permission.
Quintanilla: Does that not speak to your vetting process or judgement in any way?
Carson: No, it speaks to the fact that I don’t know those... See, they know.
The question was drowned out by loud boos from the audience. The moderators did not attempt a follow up.
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