Dr. Ben Carson is not happy with the media nor is he thrilled with a question during Wednesday night’s Republican debate about his 10-year involvement with Mannatech, a nutritional supplement company charged with operating an illegal marketing scheme. They paid out $7 million to settle a class-action lawsuit in 2009.
Carson called CNBC moderator Carlos Quintanilla’s inquiry a “gotcha” question. Carson insisted it was “absurd” he had any “relationship” with the company; he was simply a paid speaker, assuring the panel if his photo was on Mannatech’s homepage, it was there “without my permission.” Carson also said as one of the Washington Speaker’s Bureau’s “most prolific speakers” he spoke to countless groups. With his world-renowned status as a brilliant neurosurgeon and his high speaking fees, Mannatech might be facing a lawsuit for using Carson’s image to hawk products without his consent.
The day after the debate Carson held a press conference prior to his speech at Christian Colorado University calling the debate process “silly and not helpful.” Carson said he has instructed his campaign staff to reach out to other Republican candidates “to talk about a change in format.”
Carson stated debates should “help the people get to know the candidates, and get to know what’s behind them, and what their thinking process is, what their philosophy is.” According to Carson all the Mannatech coverage is part of the “gotcha agenda” by a “secular progressive” press.
Is Carson’s long history with Mannatech fair game? Was it genuinely a “gotcha” question? Amidst the Alinskyite insults, snarkiness and ridicule aimed at most of the candidates by the CNBC moderators, it’s hard to tell. If it was, Carson’s shrewd “gotcha” answer calling the hoopla over Mannatech “total propaganda” won him points with the audience.
Carson’s desire to make the debates more substantive and policy-oriented is certainly admirable but it does not eliminate the need to do what he himself suggested to Newsmax’s Ed Berliner five months before he announced his candidacy.
BERLINER: I really want to hear from you, why people should look at Ben Carson and say “he’s the guy, what is it that sets you apart and makes them want to trust you over everybody else?”
CARSON: In this vetting process to really look at a person’s entire life. And that should tell you a great deal. There are some people that are thrust into positions of great responsibility, and sometimes we don’t vet them. We don’t look into their past, we don’t look into their associations. We don’t look into their accomplishments. We don’t look into the kind of person they are. And all of those things become clear. I actually welcome the magnifying glass. I don’t have any problem.
BERLINER: When you discuss all those issues about looking back at someone’s past, do you, are you perhaps discussing a current president of the United States?
CARSON: I think he might be included in that group, yes.
BERLINER: Where perhaps people did not go deep enough and look into his past.
CARSON: Or they didn’t care. They would see certain big gaps and they go “mmmh, that’s okay, he’s a good guy.”
Being under the magnifying glass is a bit harder than Carson anticipated. At Thursday’s press function Carson expressed frustration with those vetting and verifying his own past words and actions.
I mean, all you have to do is go and Google my name. Every morning there’s 10 articles, ‘Carson said this, and he said this, and 30 years ago he did this.’ It’s just craziness. You know? … It would be comical if it weren’t so sad.
Perhaps, a debate is not the place to bring up Donald Trump’s bankruptcies, or Carly Fiorina’s less than stellar performance at Hewlett Packard, or in Ben Carson’s case, his affiliation with a company accused of deceptive advertising.
But is it really “craziness” and “comical” to practice due diligence, especially now, with the future of our country at stake in 2016? Americans are very forgiving people, it’s not the flaws in a candidate’s character or the mistakes people make that rouse their anger, it is almost always the cover-up.
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