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Carson and Mannatech

 I only watched a small portion of the CNBC debate live this past week but one of the parts that I did catch was the following:

QUINTANILLA: One more question. This is a company called Mannatech, a maker of nutritional supplements, with which you had a 10-year relationship. They offered claims that they could cure autism, cancer, they paid $7 million to settle a deceptive marketing lawsuit in Texas, and yet you’re involvement continued. Why?

CARSON: Well, that’s easy to answer. I didn’t have an involvement with them.That is total propaganda, and this is what happens in our society. Total propaganda.

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.

Do I take the product? Yes. I think it’s a good product.

My first reaction at the time (which has not changed upon re-reading the transcript) was:  how can you say that “I didn’t have an involvement with them” and assert “total propaganda” and then go on and state “I did  a couple of speeches for them” which were “paid speeches” but then assert “It is absolutely absurd to say that I had any kind of a relationship with them”?  Doing paid speeches for a company is not a relationship?  He could have tried to define the specifics of the relationship, but to essentially say “yes, I have been to their house several times, but I don’t know those people and to say we have a relationship is propaganda” is a profoundly weird approach to this situation.

Even if Carson can make the case that he has no “relationship” with the company, the fact that he takes the product and endorses it as a “good product” raises questions about his main strength:  his medical judgment.  Mannatech strikes me as nothing more than a modern example of the patent medicine types of the late 19th/early 20th centuries (ye olde snake oil salesmen).   This does not strike me as the kind of thing that an allegedly brilliant neurosurgeon would buy into.

This is illustrated in the following video (and also undercuts the notion that Carson has no relationship with Mannatech):

In regards to the glyconutrients claim that Mannatech makes (and that Carson endorses in the video), see Schnaar and Freeze: “A “Glyconutrient Sham”” in the journal Glycobiology.:

One marketing tool that some glyconutrient salespeople have used to infer the efficacy of glyconutrients is reference to Mannatech patents. Exemplary is US patent 6,929,807 (issued 2005, available at http://www.google.com/patents), which includes an impressive list of >100 scientific references including published papers by distinguished glycobiologists, including those on the Editorial Board of Glycobiology. The patent includes a long list of disorders and diseases “… treated by administration of glyconutrients…” (alone or in combination with other nutraceuticals). The list of treated diseases, each listed with positive treatment results, is breathtaking: aging, stroke, multiple sclerosis, ALS, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, macular degeneration, Down syndrome, immune deficiency, Tay-Sachs, Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, spinal cord injury, Crohn’s, Tourette’s, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, alcoholism, atherosclerosis, asthma, allergy, silicon breast implant, agent orange, Gulf War syndrome, hepatitis, influenza, common cold, AIDS, cancer, and poor athletic performance (among others). Although the claims allowed by the patent office do not address the therapeutic efficacy of glyconutrients, the Texas Attorney General’s lawsuit claims, “… Mannatech and its associates heavily rely on its … patent for credibility and validation.”

[…]

Glycoscience is synonymous with glycobiology (e.g. see http://glycosciences.de; http://glycosciences.org.uk). However, the URLs “http://glycoscience.org” and “http://glycoscience. com” point to the same Mannatech-maintained website.10According to the Texas Attorney General’s lawsuit, the site “… purports to ‘provide information on nutritional saccharides – glyconutritionals – that form the scientific underpinnings for Mannatech’s product line …'” and was designed “… to give Mannatech’s products an air of legitimacy ….” However, the lawsuit goes on to state that studies reported there “… have little, if any, scientific value.” According to the lawsuit, “… some of the studies referenced on the glycoscience.com website are legitimate studies that have been published in recognized journals. Those studies, however, are generic studies that have been done in the field of glycobiology and provide no support for the claims being made …” and furthermore, “… doctors in the field of glycobiology have strenuously objected to [Mannatech] using their work to mislead consumers into believing Mannatech’s products can cure diseases. Nevertheless, [Mannatech] continue[s] to encourage associates to use the studies in order to convince their non-medical … customers that Mannatech’s products have these incredible curative properties”. (See footnote 5).

The fact that Mannatech claims a religious aspect to their business may help shield Carson from criticism from some of his supporters, but this does not take away from the fact that his association with Mannatech is an association with (and endorsement of) junk science.  For a man who is basing a huge amount of his appeal on his medical expertise, however, this situation strikes me as seriously calling his judgement into  question.  This is especially worrisome since he claims he will consult experts if elected to the presidency.  If he can’t discern experts from charlatans in the medical field how is he going to pick legitimate experts on foreign and economic policy?

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. An Interested Party says:

    Considering that his political views are based on junk it is hardly surprising that he would associate himself with a company that traffics in junk science…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  2. Ron Beasley says:

    Yes, even famous neurosurgeons can be snake oil salesmen if the money is right.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  3. CSK says:

    You would think someone who’d achieved such eminence in his field–he was the first surgeon to separate occipital craniopagous twins with both surviving–would be among the first to denounce this kind of chicanery. I suppose, as Cyndi Lauper once said, money changes everything.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  4. stonetools says:

    I wouldn’t worry. Hey, Ronald Reagan was a a spokesman for dubious causes in the 1960s and looked how th-oh, never mind.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 3

  5. Hal_10000 says:

    On Twitter, I coined the term “Ediot” – someone who is highly educated, brilliant in his own field but dumber than a bag of hammers outside of his own narrow speciality. Carson is a brilliant surgeon. He’s turning out to be an idiot on almost anything else. And he can get away with this because, for the moment, he’s the flavor of the month and used to getting away with things. Eventually, it will catch up to him.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 0

  6. anjin-san says:

    @Hal_10000:

    And he can get away with this because, for the moment, he’s the flavor of the month and used to getting away with things facts are utterly irrelevant in modern conservative politics.

    FTFY

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 29 Thumb down 1

  7. al-Ameda says:

    Yes but he advocates for Mannatech products in such a quiet and polite manner.
    Also, his personal story is very inspirational.
    Anything else? No?
    Class dismissed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  8. Grewgills says:

    @Hal_10000:
    Hopefully it will catch up to him for the general electorate, but it won’t for his base. His base is buying all his crazy and will keep doing so because is supports their chosen narrative. They will either ignore this as a distraction or see it as defamation by liberal media and liberal academics.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  9. C. Clavin says:

    And the so-called lousy moderators had the goods…but Carson lied. Then blamed the moderators for asking gotcha questions.
    Every one of the Republican candidates has issues that should disqualify them from office.
    The GOP has spent decades trying to find similar issues with Clunton and have failed.
    Those are the facts in evidence.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 16 Thumb down 4

  10. Mikey says:

    @Hal_10000: You’ve created the English equivalent of the German “Fachidiot.” It’s someone who is an expert in his profession but a moron about everything else.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  11. stonetools says:

    @Hal_10000:

    Hey, the Germans beat you to it.

    Definition of fachidiot

    Noun. A derogatory term for a one-track specialist who is an expert in his field, but takes a blinkered approach to multi-faceted problems.

    I predict that by the end of Carson’s campaign, that term will follow schadenfreude into common English usage.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  12. irondog says:

    The guy also didn’t denounce Trump’s anti-vaccination nonsense in an earlier debate…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  13. James Pearce says:

    It continues to amuse me how many MLM schemes have a religious aspect to them. AdvoCare, Mannatech, Amway. They spread through churches like gonorrhea spreads through a whorehouse. What gives?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  14. stonetools says:

    @Mikey:

    And Mikey beat me to it. Aren’t you the one with the German wife, though? If so, you had an advantage…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  15. M. Bouffant says:

    Being a skilled & pioneering surgeon requires incredible dedication & compartmentalization, often resulting in being cut off from what some say is the “real” world. In Dr. Carson’s case, he also has a non-mainstream religious belief to isolate him from more or less consensus reality.

    So I’m not in the least surprised that he can be a talented surgeon yet still not have any wisdom (& little apparent common sense) to speak of.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  16. CSK says:

    I’ve never been able to decide if Carson and Sarah Palin believe the stuff they say, or if they’ve just figured out a great way to make money by telling the saps what they want to hear.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  17. Mikey says:

    @stonetools:

    Aren’t you the one with the German wife, though?

    Yes, that’s me. I took the time to learn passable German while living there and have, to my great surprise, retained much of it even though I now use it only occasionally.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  18. Mikey says:

    @CSK: Palin’s running a racket. Carson’s a true believer. IMHO.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  19. Argon says:

    See also this post on Carson and Mannatech by an oncology surgeon blogger.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  20. michael reynolds says:

    Can we just get over the fact that this lying, delusional ass-hat is a doctor? Che Guevara was medical student, Papa Doc Duvalier was a doctor, Mengele was a doctor. American doctors carried out horrific medical experiments at Tuskegee and other places, and aided and abetted torture under Mr. Bush.

    Doctors are just people + education. People + Education ≠ Saints.

    This guy is a snake oil salesman for Mannatech and even more so in his campaign. He is fleecing rubes by means of lies. The only upside is that he appears to be too stupid to keep campaign “consultants” from fleecing him in return, so that Carson is a sort of pass-through for money that flies out of the pockets of clueless hillbillies to land in the pockets of gimlet-eyed grifters with offices in Washington DC.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 31 Thumb down 2

  21. CSK says:

    @Mikey:

    I think you’re probably right.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  22. Hal_10000 says:

    Mikey and Stonetools: Thanks for the German word. I should have known the Germans would have a word for that. They have a word for everything. You could describe the entire universe with one word if you shoved enough German syllables together.

    Damn. I still like Ediot.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  23. CSK says:

    @Hal_10000:

    Well, have another schnitzengruben and you’ll feel better in no time.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  24. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @anjin-san: I don’t think you’re being fair. After all, who are conservatives supposed to believe, a noted pediatric neurosurgeon who is not only a spokesman, but also a client who can assert that he was cured specifically because of his use of the product (yes, I’ve watched the whole video before) or a bunch of pseudo-intellectual academic types who are probably lying because of their envy of his success? I mean, come on…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  25. irondog says:

    I’m more interested in Carson and Manatees. Which is more “low energy”? Which is more fit to be president? I’m not sure…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  26. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @James Pearce: Religious and/or evangelical conservatives buy into the notion that “entrepreneurship is the driving force of” both economic and job growth in the US economy. (They are also blind to the predatory influences that pervade MLM–I have, in the past week heard both Clark Howard and Dave Ramsay speak highly of MLM being a good career choice if “you are good a hiring and managing other people to work for you.”) They imagine that by “doing God’s will” they will be rewarded with fabulous wealth.

    All that’s left is to convince them that the program is based on some sort of “Christian” principle or another.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  27. James Pearce says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker:

    Religious and/or evangelical conservatives buy into the notion that “entrepreneurship is the driving force of” both economic and job growth in the US economy.

    And I thought it could be attributed to the faithful’s propensity for suckerdom…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  28. Kylopod says:

    An oldie but a goodie–

    German Lesson 101

    dog: Barkenpantensniffer
    dog catcher: Barkenpantensniffersnatcher
    dog catcher’s truck: Barkenpantensniffersnatcherwagen
    mechanic for dog catcher’s truck: Barkenpantensniffensnatcherwagenmechanikerwerker
    mechanic’s union: Barkenpantensniffensnatcherwagenmechanikerwerker-
    featherbeddengefixengruppe
    doctor: Chestergethumpenpulsentooker
    nurse: Chestergethumpenpulsentookerhelper
    hypodermic needle: Chestergethumpenpulsentookerhelperhurtensticker
    backside: Chestergethumpenpulsentookerhelperhurtenstickerstabbenplatz

    piano: Plinkenplankenplunkenbox
    pianist: Plinkenplankenplunkenboxgepounder
    piano recital: Plinkenplankenplunkenboxgepounderoffengeshowenspelle
    fathers at the piano recital: Plinkenplankenplunkenboxgepounderoffengeshowenspellen-
    snoozengruppe
    mothers at the piano recital: Plinkenplankenplunkenboxgepounderoffengeshowenspellen-
    snoozengruppenuppenwakers

    automobile: Honkenbrakenscreecher
    gasoline: Honkenbrakenscreecherzoomerjuicen
    driver: Honkenbrakenscreechergudenstunker
    auto mechanic: Honkenbrakenscreechergudenstunkergefixer
    repair bill: Bankenrollergebustenuptottenliste

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  29. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @James Pearce: Well, that too, but there are pseudo logical factors driving the choice.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  30. Mikey says:

    @Kylopod: You think this is a joke? This is for real! LOL

    Rhabarber Barbara

    This lively animation takes you, step by step, through what’s involved in creating Rhababerbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbierbie­rbarbärbel, a completely valid (and probably never before uttered) word.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  31. J-Dub says:

    Just because a prostitute takes money for sex doesn’t mean she’s in a “relationship” with said person.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  32. Ken in NJ says:

    This surprises me only because of his clear public health stance on vaccinations.

    I guess there’s no anti-vax vitamin company who was willing to pay him enough

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  33. Ken in NJ says:

    This surprises me only because of his clear public health stance on vaccinations.

    I guess there’s no anti-vax vitamin company who was willing to pay him enough

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  34. grumpy realist says:

    @Kylopod: You may think it is a joke, but the German habit of creating terms by stringing words together like sausages makes it a bloody paint in the neck to translate patents…Even Japanese is easier for me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  35. Ebenezer Arvigenius says:

    @Mikey: No it isn’t. Sorry to spoil the fun but that’s not how German works. Outside of Government legal desgnations you’re unlikely to come across something even remotely comparable. 😉

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  36. Mikey says:

    @Ebenezer Arvigenius: Of course one would never encounter “Rhababerbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbierbie­rbarbärbel” (oder etwas aehnliches) in everyday German speech. It’s just Germans poking fun at an oddity of their own language.

    Also, my wife’s a native German speaker and she thinks it’s really funny.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  37. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    @Mikey: Oh it’s funny. But it’s not a grammar spoof. The grammar in that video does not actually work (Rhababerbarbarbera can be theoretically done but would have to be two words Rhababerbar Barbera). So it’s less a comment on long German words than “fun with onomatopoeia” ;-).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0