Dr. Ben Carson on Wednesday denied a well-documented relationship with Mannatech, a supplement company that has been accused of illegal advertising.
“I didn't have an involvement with them. That is total propaganda, and this is what happens in our society. Total propaganda,” Carson said of the company that's claimed they can cure cancer and autism with their supplements. “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.”
But Carson appears in video after video speaking positively about Mannatech and how it helped him fight cancer – so much so he even considered forgoing surgery – and continued working with Mannatech even after they paid $7 million to settle charges of “illegal” and “deceptive” advertising brought by Texas’ attorney general’s office in 2009.
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“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,” Carson says in a logo-branded, 3-minute commercial-style video reportedly filmed in 2013. “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."
Carson’s links with the company were reported on by the Wall Street Journal earlier this month. They found that he taped commercial-like videos for the company, gave four paid speeches, and in 2011, said he was proud to say that the company had donated to Johns Hopkins, where he served as Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery for decades, on his behalf. The campaign later told them that no donation occurred and said that there is no relationship.
His denial of these decade-long ties on debate night signals an unusual unease within the campaign over the issue, which has handled other tricky stories from the candidate’s past -- like his early pro-choice stance -- with far more aplomb.
“You can either handle these things well and put them to bed, or you can let them linger. I’m afraid they’re letting them linger,” Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak told MSNBC. “That could make it worse than it needs to be.”
Carson's fellow front-running rival Donald Trump, also made several inaccurate statements in the debate, at one point denying having ever called Sen. Marco Rubio “Mark Zuckerberg’s personal senator,” despite using that very phrase in his immigration policy proposal. Strategists say both candidates' tendency to fudge facts could backfire.
“Time is not on the side of Donald Trump or of Ben Carson because these things will keep happening and as they continue to happen, it’s going to go against their character,” Republican strategist Susan Del Percio told MSNBC. “These people are running on sheer personalities, particularly Donald Trump. When [voters] see him as a liar, that’s going to change.”
Del Percio said last night’s debate won’t hurt either candidate, but if inaccuracies continue to emerge throughout the campaign, the cumulative effect could.
Still, Carson appears to have voters on his side for now: when moderators asked whether Carson’s involvement with Mannatech -- even after the company settled a lawsuit – questioned his good judgment, the Boulder audience booed the question.
“See, they get it,” Carson said with a big smile.
“The audience response to the question shows how challenging it’s going to be to go after Carson,” Mackowiak added. “He gets the benefit of the doubt more so than a traditional candidate might.”