Dr. Ben Carson has become a fan favorite among Tea Partiers. A well-spoken, educated, political-outsider with an inspiring story, Carson has created enough excitement to inspire a national effort to draft him into a 2016 Presidential bid.
Being an untried outsider might prove advantageous in some respects… until it comes time to deal with the airing of the past grievances. Those experienced in political combat have well-trained, battle-ready teams to deal with any unflattering press that might surface.
Last week, would-be 2016 presidential contender Dr. Ben Carson apologized for plagiarism.
Buzzfeed unearthed attribution issues in Carson’s book 2012 book, America the Beautiful. National Review reported:
America the Beautiful, which mixes history, politics, and autobiography, is the first book on which Carson collaborated with his wife, who is credited on the front cover. Candy Carson, the source says, “relied heavily on the editor” to ensure all of the sources were attributed correctly. Carson’s book agent, Sealy Yates, told the Daily Caller that the Carsons “delivered a completed manuscript to the publisher and they then relied on the editorial staff, which every author does.”
The book was published by Zondervan, HarperCollins’s Christian division, which is currently featuring Carson’s latest book on its web page. BuzzFeed highlights sentences in the book lifted from a number of sources, including SocialismSucks.net. Zondervan did not immediately return a request for comment.
Following the Buzzfeed report, Carson apologized. According to CNN:
“I attempted to appropriately cite and acknowledge all sources in America the Beautiful, but inadvertently missed some. I apologize, and I am working with my editors to rectify the situation,” Carson said in a statement his representative, Armstrong Williams, provided to CNN.
But that’s not the end of the Ben Carson-as-potential-candidate complications.
Today, Jim Geraghty of National Review unearthed a troubling Carson connection. Evidently, Carson spent ten years involved with a medical-supplement maker that then Texas Attorney General (now Governor) Greg Abbott accused of false advertising.
n March of last year, Dr. Ben Carson, the conservative star considered a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, appeared in a video for Mannatech, Inc., a Texas-based medical supplement maker. Smiling into the camera, he extolled the benefits of the company’s “glyconutrient” products:
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. You know we live in a society that is very sophisticated, and sometimes we’re not able to achieve the original diet. And we have to alter our diet to fit our lifestyle. Many of the natural things are not included in our diet. Basically 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 interactions with Mannatech, a nutritional-supplement company based in suburban Dallas, date back to 2004, when he was a speaker at the company’s annual conferences, MannaFest and MannaQuest. He also spoke at Mannatech conferences in 2011 and 2013, and spoke about “glyconutrients” in a PBS special as recently as last year.
Mannatech has a long, checkered past, stretching back to its founding more than a decade before Carson began touting the company’s supplements. It was started by businessman Samuel L. Caster in late 1993, mere “months,” the Wall Street Journal later noted, before Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, which greatly loosened restrictions on how supplement makers could market their products. Within a few years of its inception, the company was marketing a wide variety of “glyconutrient” products using many of the same tactics previously described in lawsuits against Eagle Shield, Caster’s first company.
This wasn’t a casual acquaintance or one-time dealing.
“This was a particularly egregious case of false advertising,” said Christine Mann, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of State Health Services. “It’s rare for us to see a dietary-supplement manufacturer claim a particular product cures cancer, autism, or any number of retractable or incurable diseases. We do see all kinds of claims being made in the supplement industry, but in many cases we find manufacturers do not know the rules and will work with us to make sure they get into compliance with the applicable laws.”
In 2009, the state of Texas reached an agreement resolving the lawsuit against Mannatech, Inc., and Caster; under the settlement, Mannatech paid $4 million in restitution to Texas customers while admitting no wrongdoing, and Caster agreed to a $1 million civil penalty and a five-year ban on serving as an officer, director, or employee of the company. The agreement further decreed that Mannatech employees were prohibited from saying “directly or indirectly” that their products can “cure, treat, mitigate or prevent any disease,” and banned the use of customers’ testimonials making those claims.
According to National Review, Carson business manager Armstrong Williams said, “Carson won’t personally be answering any questions about his interactions with the company, “because that is the decision that has been made.””
Carson’s relationship with the company, at least according to Williams, was not actually a relationship per se, but merely a string of speaking engagements booked by a speakers bureau:
“I don’t know that he’s ever had a compensated relationship with Mannatech,” says Armstrong Williams, Carson’s business manager, when asked about those appearances. “All we know is that the Washington Speaker’s Bureau, which booked hundreds of speaking engagements for him through the year, booked these engagements. He had no idea who these people are. They’re booked through the speakers’ bureau. The question should be asked to the Washington Speakers Bureau, when did they have a relationship with Mannatech, because Dr. Carson never had one.” (At Washington Speakers Bureau, Carson is listed as a level-6 speaker, meaning his fee is more than $40,000 per speech.)
If he’s to avoid any guilty by association inferences, Carson should be answering questions. “I don’t know that he’s ever had a compensated relationship” and “he wont be answering questions” could prove more damaging than helpful in the long run. After all, the games haven’t even begun.
Carson has yet to say whether or not he’s running for President in 2016.
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