Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson is seemingly in damage control mode after suggesting during Tuesday night's GOP debate that "the Chinese" are in Syria and involved in the Middle Eastern country’s brutal civil war.
Asked by a reporter on Friday about his claim -- which has been roundly dismissed by the White House and foreign policy experts -- Carson said his campaign would release "source material" backing up the allegation.
"I have several sources that I've got material from," the retired neurosurgeon said at a press conference in Greenville, South Carolina. "I'm surprised my sources are better than theirs."
Earlier in the day, Carson’s campaign also circulated a memo arguing that the Republican's debate remarks had been misconstrued and that he was speaking about Chinese influence and military assistance -- not Chinese troops. Carson “does not believe China is currently fighting in or deploying troops to Syria, and contrary to press reports, he has never made that assertion," it said.
The campaign memo, obtained by NBC News, linked to several international news clips and research articles about China selling materials to Syria.
Carson, who has surged to second place in the race for the GOP presidential nomination, has been dogged by accusations of making misleading or inaccurate statements and then trying to evade controversy by muddying the waters. That includes his most recent comments about Syria and China; claims that he had a violent childhood past, even though several news organizations have tried and failed to verify his account; and admitting he never applied to West Point, despite a claim in his autobiography that he got a full scholarship to the military academy.
Previously, Carson adviser Armstrong Williams appeared to back the candidate's original debate claim about the Chinese, telling MSNBC's Tamron Hall on Wednesday, "from your perspective and what most people know, maybe that is inaccurate, but from my intelligence and what Dr. Carson's been told by people on the ground involved in that area of the world, it has been told to him many times over and over that the Chinese are there.”
Now the campaign appears to be changing its tune.