Thursday, October 29, 2015

Carson Says He'll Band Together With Other Campaigns To Fix The Format For Debates

Ben Carson greets attendees at Colorado Christian University on Thursday.

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

LAKEWOOD, Colorado — Republican presidential candidate and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson told reporters on Thursday that his staff is reaching out to other campaigns to discuss how to change the format of the debates.

Carson said of Wednesday's debate, "I think maybe it has the possibility of being a very important moment in American politics, because it so clearly demonstrates the need for a change in format."

"I’ve asked my staff to reach out to the other campaigns to talk about a change in format," he said in a press availability before a speech at Colorado Christian University, a small Christian college outside of Denver.

CNBC, which hosted the debate, has come under intense criticism from Republicans. Some of the campaigns felt that their candidates weren't given a fair amount of time, and Republicans have accused the moderators of losing control of the debate and of being biased. "CNBC should be ashamed of how this debate was handled," Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement on Wednesday.

Carson didn't have many specifics in mind for what he wants the debate format to look like.

"Maybe the opportunity to lay out your plan for something and then be questioned about it and then go to the next one," he said. "That’s something that would be actually useful. Using it for political purposes just doesn’t make any sense."

Carson said he wants "moderators who are interested in actually getting the facts and not in gotcha questions" and "we’re looking for an opportunity to actually be able to explain what your program is."

He did not say he wouldn't attend the next debate if his requirements aren't met.

"We will always have the conversation of course, I don’t see any reason whatever right now to be posturing," Carson said.

Carson appeared to fade a bit into the background in Wednesday's debate, which was dominated by squabbling between establishment candidates. And despite the fact that he is polling in second place, he was near the bottom in tallies of how much speaking time candidates got. He also had to field uncomfortable questions about his involvement with Mannatech, a company that manufactures nutritional supplements that has been accused of making false claims of their efficacy in curing autism and cancer. Despite the fact that Carson has appeared in promotional videos and given paid speeches for the company, he said he had no real involvement.

Carson reiterated that on Thursday, telling reporters, "I don’t have any official involvement with them. They don’t pay me other than if I give a speech, a paid speech, and I do like the product."

He said he had not been paid to appear in promotional videos for Mannatech.

As for the paid speeches, Carson argued that he gives paid speeches to all kinds of groups.

"You name the group, I’ve spoken for them," Carson said. "It doesn’t mean that I’m endorsing them, doesn’t mean I have any special relationship with them."

Carson said he considers questions about Mannatech to be "gotcha" questions.

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