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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Carson and Mannatech

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the issue's role in campaigns.

CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla was lustily booed by the GOP debate audience Wednesday night for pressing Ben Carson on his relationship with a sketchy nutritional supplements firm. The jeers rained so loudly that Carson couldn’t even finish his answer to the question. Which is good for him, because he was in the process of spinning one of the most convoluted, nonsensical, bald-faced lies of the entire campaign. And that’s saying something.
The question was about Carson’s 10-year involvement with a sketchy multilevel marketing firm called Mannatech. As Quintanilla noted, Mannatech has faced scrutiny over its claims that its vitamins could cure everything from autism to cancer, and itpaid $7 million to settle deceptive advertising charges brought by the Texas attorney general. Slate’s Helaine Olen has also explained how companies like Mannatech prey on the poor, desperate, and gullible by promising riches if they enroll as direct-sales associates hawking the company’s products. Quintanilla asked Carson a simple question: Why would he continue to be involved with such a company?
Back in January, Jim Geraghty reported at National Review:
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.
In 2007, three years after Carson’s first dealings with Mannatech, Texas attorney general Greg Abbott sued the company and Caster, charging them with orchestrating an unlawful marketing scheme that exaggerated their products’ health benefits. The original petition in that case paints an ugly picture of Mannatech’s marketing practices. It charges that the company offered testimonials from individuals claiming that they’d used Mannatech products to overcome serious diseases and ailments, including autism, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, and life-threatening heart conditions.
“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 2007, ABC reported:
But "20/20's" hidden camera investigation found some Mannatech sales associates teaching potential recruits how to work around legal restrictions.
"You can't tell people that it's going to cure anything, but you can say, 'I think I have something that will help you with your cancer,'" a sales associate told a "20/20" producer who attended one meeting.
And even at Mannatech's corporate-sponsored annual convention held in 2006, a video obtained by "20/20" shows a high-level sales associate counseling front-line salespeople in the fine art of walking the fine line.
"How many of you can think of a target or a market to target?" As the audience calls out, he repeats their suggestions. "Autism? Cancer? Diabetes? There's millions, right? Now, if they are health specific, can you mention Mannatech? No, absolutely not. But can you build a list of people who want to know about that particular situation? Yes."
Rhoads recently went for an MRI. She said that although the results show she is not cancer-free, she believes Mannatech's products are benefiting her, and she will continue to ignore her doctor's recommendation for chemotherapy and radiation.