In Wednesday’s CNBC Republican presidential debate, Ben Carson was asked about his involvement with Mannatech, a dietary supplement maker.
In 2009, Mannatech settled for $7 million following a lawsuit brought by the Texas attorney general over the company’s claims that its products could cure cancer and autism. CNBC moderator Carl Quintanilla claimed Carson had a 10-year-long connection with the company and that it continued even after the settlement.
Carson denied the accusation, saying, “That is total propaganda … I did a couple 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 relationship with them.”
Carson’s statement directly contradicts promotional material that came from Mannatech, as well as his own business manager Armstrong Williams, who described Carson’s relationship to the company in an interview Thursday on “The Lead with Jake Tapper.”
Williams defended his boss, suggesting that while Carson did have a relationship to the company, the retired neurosurgeon didn’t realize all of the details of his endorsement up front and wanted out of the deal.
“He said ‘I don’t believe in this. I’m not going to do it,’” Williams said, recalling negotiations with the company over the endorsement. “When that was over, he made it clear to me, ‘You need to get me out of this, I’m not going to do this again,’ and it was over.’”
The Wall Street Journal this month reported on Carson’s connection with Mannatech, saying Carson has said he has taken the company’s supplements for more than a decade.
The WSJ also cited a 2004 video of Carson speaking at a Mannatech event. In the video, he credited the company’s products for his prostate cancer diagnosis symptoms disappearing. The paper points out that Carson is now “cancer-free after surgery.”
The WSJ reports Carson has appeared in videos that were on Mannatech’s website until earlier this month. The videos were removed soon after the Journal’s reporting. The paper also reported that Carson gave four paid speeches at company events; the most recent was in 2013 for which Carson was paid $42,000.
Carson’s campaign manager, Barry Bennett, told the WSJ Carson is a “believer in vitamins and supplements.”
CNBC moderator Quintanilla also pointed out Carson’s image was on the Mannatech website’s homepage, with the firm’s logo prominently displayed over his shoulder. Carson said, “If somebody put me on the homepage, they did it without my permission.” When Quintanilla then asked, “Does that not speak to your vetting process or judgment in any way?” Carson started to respond, “No, it speaks to the fact that I don’t know those –” and was interrupted by audience boos apparently directed at the moderator. Carson concluded, “See, they know.”
Despite Carson’s denial in the debate, he admitted that he did paid speeches for Mannatech, and credited the company’s products for his cancer symptoms disappearing and his image appeared on the firm’s website as recently as 2014 – so it appears he was very much involved with the company even after its 2009 settlement over false advertising.