In a curious turn of events, Ben Carson’s campaign is denouncing a recent New York Times report by throwing a man who may or may not be advising him under the bus to the old age home.
The article—which was published Tuesday—contains allegations that Carson is having a hard time mastering foreign policy.
The most damaging quotes come from former CIA agent Duane R. Clarridge, who is identified in the piece as “a top adviser to Mr. Carson on terrorism and national security.” His qualifications are bolstered by Carson’s longterm business manager, Armstrong Williams, who refers to Clarridge as Carson’s “mentor.”
From the report:
“Nobody has been able to sit down with him and have him get one iota of intelligent information about the Middle East,” said Duane R. Clarridge, a top adviser to Mr. Carson on terrorism and national security. He also said Mr. Carson needed weekly conference calls briefing him on foreign policy so “we can make him smart.”
Mr. Clarridge, who contacted Mr. Carson nearly two years ago to offer his services without pay, has helped the candidate prepare for debates. But the briefings do not always seem to sink in, Mr. Clarridge said. After Mr. Carson struggled on “Fox News Sunday” to say whom he would call first to form a coalition against the Islamic State, Mr. Clarridge called Mr. Williams in frustration. “We need to have a conference call once a week where his guys roll out the subjects they think will be out there, and we can make him smart,” Mr. Clarridge said he told Mr. Williams.
Now, in a surreal turn that’s come to define Carson’s flexible relationship with facts, the campaign is insisting neither man quoted in the article has any influence on Carson or his campaign.
“Mr. Clarridge has incomplete knowledge of the daily, not weekly briefings, that Dr. Carson receives on important national security matters from former military and State Department officials,” Carson spokesperson Doug Watts said in a statement obtained by CNN. “He is coming to the end of a long career of serving our country. Mr. Clarridge’s input to Dr. Carson is appreciated but he is clearly not one of Dr. Carson’s top advisers.”
But there’s more—the Times, Carson’s campaign alleges, took “advantage of an elderly gentleman and used him as their foil in this story…[in] an affront to good journalistic practices.”
New York Times senior editor for politics Carolyn Ryan denied the allegations in a statement obtained by The Politico, saying it was Carson’s campaign who pointed her to Clarridge in the first place.
“It was Ben Carson’s closest adviser, Armstrong Williams, who recommended that we talk to Mr. Clarridge and described Mr. Clarridge as a ‘mentor’ to Mr. Carson on foreign policy. Mr. Williams also gave us Mr. Clarridge’s phone number. Mr. Clarridge picked up the phone and our reporter, Trip Gabriel, conducted a very straightforward interview with him,” Ryan said. “Mr. Clarridge was the only adviser whose name was given to us by Armstrong Williams.”
A counterpoint to which Carson’s campaign has another mystifying response: that Williams—a longtime friend, business manager and sometimes-spokesperson who reportedly edited Carson’s Washington Post op-ed—does not speak for Carson and “has nothing to do with his campaign.”
The campaign did not immediately return requests for comment.