Selling Snake Oil

Following my recent post about Ben Carson, I got an email from my cousin, the cardiologist/medical researcher whose expertise I often cite here. He was livid about an aspect of Carson’s biography of which I’d previously been unaware: his willingness to use his prominence and medical credentials to hawk snake oil.

Carson first spoke out in favor of Mannatech products over a decade ago when he claimed that the Texas-based company’s “glyconutritional supplements,” which included larch-tree bark and aloe vera extract, helped him overcome prostate cancer….

As the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month, Carson’s relationship with the company deepened over time, including “four paid speeches at Mannatech gatherings, most recently one in 2013 for which he was paid $42,000, according to the company.” …

Mannatech supposedly made $415 million in the last 12 months selling pills and powders made from larch bark and aloe, known as glyconutrients, marketed under the trade name of Ambrotose, a so called “nutritional supplement that helps the cells in one’s body communicate with one another”…

My cousin’s blog has more detail.

During the last debate, Carson denied having a ten-year relationship with the company, which claims its nutritional supplement can cure autism, cancer and other serious illnesses. (Mannatech paid $7 million to settle a deceptive marketing lawsuit in Texas).

Politifact rated Carson’s response “false.” 

Paul Krugman also noted Carson’s relationship to Mannatech, but went on to comment on the GOP’s sale of “snake oil” more broadly, noting

As the historian Rick Perlstein documents, a “strategic alliance of snake-oil vendors and conservative true believers” goes back half a century. Direct-mail marketing using addresses culled from political campaigns has given way to email, but the game remains the same.

Krugman listed several examples, from Glenn Beck’s Goldline, to Ron Paul’s book sales, to the recent New York Times series exposing a number of conservative PACs whose fundraising benefits the people who run the PACs, rather than the causes they ostensibly support.

You might think that such revelations would be politically devastating. But the targets of such schemes know, just know, that the liberal mainstream media can’t be trusted, that when it reports negative stories about conservative heroes it’s just out to suppress people who are telling the real truth. It’s a closed information loop, and can’t be broken.

A world of frightened, uninformed and disoriented people is tailor-made for guys selling snake oil.


  1. The first clue about Doctor Carson’s avarice came a few weeks ago when he took a break from campaigning to be president in order to go on a book tour. Is that what he would do as president? Take a break here and there to sell books, snake oil, or whatever? What is obvious right now is that he is selling Republicans a lot of bull. Sadly, many are buying.

  2. Until term limits are firmly in place we can expect politicians to continue unethical behavior….glad to see Dennis Hasert’s recent conviction…I will continue to vote against all incumbants.

  3. Not only are conservative true believers/ likely Republican voters buying, they are actively looking for those who are selling to confirm their fearful and willfully ignorant worldview. The media that Ted Cruz and company rail against are playing right into the hands of those who would hear only the preconceived notions they want confirmed. They are reaping the harvest that they have sown. And it is very profitable. Meanwhile the wealthiest of our society continue to use their money as a weapon to manipulate the system to their singular advantage.

  4. Theresa; remember Sarah Palin quit her “job” as governor of Alaska to write and sell her book…to make more money than being governor paid. Would she have done this as vice-president – you betcha! The price of books today make it a lucrative endeavor for well-known personages; free advertisement in Carson’s case…and Palin’s. It is another “follow the money” situation, selling snake-oil and/or books; almost as enticing as snake-handling for “true believers”. I wonder when Kim Davis will take a break to write a book; she is too well protected in her family operated business in the Kentucky Clerk’s Office to give up that almost $80,000 annual salary or worry about losing her job.

    The misguided Republicans will keep Carson on that list of presidential wannabes and buy the book. It might be worth the price of his book to get a look inside the mind of this silly man who can’t keep his stories straight and sells books and snake-oil as a sideline to his bid for the presidency.

  5. Orin Hatch and the Mormons are up to their eye ball is this type of nonsense too, I believe.

  6. Supporting Doug Ingersoll – BRIDGEPORT – Former Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim’s 12-year run ended with a corruption scandal that sent him to prison for seven years. On Wednesday, Bridgeport voters made it clear they want him to get a second chance.
    Has he learned his lesson? Have the voters not? My goodness.

  7. Instead of disproving the “snake oil salesmen,” which as Sheila has pointed out is useless, I would strongly suggest that the Progressive Community’s Marketing Department better come up real quick with something that out sells the Tea Party’s “snake oil” or my TERM “Democracide” used to highlight our essay: Democracide: The Far Right’s Path to Power, published in 1993, will become a devastating fact.

  8. Any time I see or hear Ben Carson on tv he gives me a really creepy feeling. There is something really unethical and evil about this man.

    I have often wondered about his neurosurgery years – why did he leave or retire from that profession? Was he respected by his co-workers? Was the hospital disgusted by his affiliation with the snake oil company? It seems his history reveals he has been much more interested in money and power than he may have ever been interested in being a surgeon. Was he pushed out and the hospital made everyone sign confidentiality agreements to avoid an investigation? I believe there is much more to his story than is being told.

  9. There’s a PROPAGANDA GAP in what might be called “America’s pluralistic line” and it’s been widening every day for the last 35 years. The only answer is to close the gap or the shoulders or whatever you want to call it.

    It’s analogous to the gap that was created in the “Battle of the Bulge” in World War II. Fortunately, for the Allies, it was eventually closed when the German Panzer Division’s tanks were cut off from their fuel supply.

    Rent a DVD of the “Battle of the Bulge” starring Henry Fonda. The answer is highlighted in the movie. See it for yourself. You can’t miss it.

  10. Hillary is also being bottled and sold as a Woman’s Rights Candidate.

    Clinton Foundation –
    Saudi Arabia
    The kingdom gave between $10 million and $25 million to the Clinton Foundation between the time the foundation was created through 2014, and some portion of the funds was contributed in 2014, according to the foundation. >>> Saudi Arabia is a real role model for Woman’s Rights- Working Woman??

    Clinton Foundation:
    The Sultanate of Oman gave the foundation between $1 million and $5 million through 2014, including contributions given in 2014, according to the foundation database. >> Is this country another champion of Woman’s Rights???

    Defense Contractors Donated To The Clinton Foundation
    The Clinton Foundation accepted donations from six companies benefiting from U.S. State Department arms export approvals.
    Boeing 5,000,000
    General Electric 1,000,000
    Goldman Sachs (Hawker Beechcraft) 500,000
    Honeywell 50,000
    Lockheed Martin 250,000
    United Technologies 50,000

    Following her tenure as Secretary of State, doesn’t mean she didn’t make a lot of money.
    During that time, she made nearly $12 million by charging fees that topped $335,000 for dozens of speeches. Among them are three below.
    Morgan Stanley
    Deutsche Bank
    The Goldman Sachs Group

    There is plenty of Snake Oil being bought and sold.

  11. Nancy,

    I wish it wasn’t so, but there are no ethics in PSYCHOLOGICAL warfare. It’s just the opposite.

    Read: “James Dobson’s War on America” by former Dobson executive Gil Alexander-Moegerle. He was the co-host of Dobson’s “Focus on the Family” radio program.

    An excerpt from the back cover of the book by Barry Lynn, former Executive Director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State:

    “For the first time, a former high-level insider provides a behind-the-scenes look at the private world of James Dobson, one of the most powerful yet clandestine figures waging religious war against mainstream America. We learn what only an insider could know about James Dobson, who has the power and the will to subjugate our personal freedoms, while hiding from the focus of the media. Former Senior Vice President of Focus on the Family, Gil Alexander-Moegerle, reveals the dark side of this man and his “CIVIL WAR OF VALUES.”

    He’s one of Gopper’s leaders. Gopper has said so at least on one occasion on this blog. There are millions like Gopper.

  12. When you look back at American history the big economic contributions have always come from poor people wanting to become rich people.

    It’s the wealthy who drag society down trying to compete with other wealthy.

    Poverty sucks. Absolute power corrupts.

    Ben Carson is a prime example. What he accomplished as a poor man is laudable.

    But as a wealthy man competing with other mega rich is despicable but not surprising.

    On the other hand the Clinton’s have gone from poor to wealthy through public service. That’s the only life that they know.

  13. Pete,

    Your comparison of Hilliary Clinton and Ben Carson is valid. However, at this point in time, I’m not sure how much difference there is. I believe it’s a lot less than you think.

  14. There is a growing tendency to spread the blame that conservatism has earned to all parties. All incumbents. All parties. All voters. Indict democracy.

    While that’s what we humans like to do we also need to accept it as dysfunctional.

    Politics is about the best choice, it’s never the search for the perfection that is nonexistent.

    Is A likely to be better than B? That’s the only choice that we have.

  15. Marv, I think that the difference is marked. Hillary is fully qualified by experience and Ben has no qualifications for the job.

  16. Marv, you assume that extremism is the only cure for extremism.

    No wonder you’re so pessimistic about our future. From that perspective we don’t have one.

  17. Louie, do you think that there ought to be a legislated cap on what entertainers can earn per appearance? Or lecturers? Or teachers?

  18. I’m pretty sure that if the NRA offered to pay me $100K to speak at their convention I’d take it.

    And they would suffer buyers remorse.

  19. Diversity explains why it’s impossible to make accurate too broad statements about people.

    Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are not the same as the Koch Bros except all are wealthy.

  20. Pete,

    Please point out to me where I have ever advocated extremism. I take that as slander or that you’re terribly mistaken.

    Furthermore, I’m not pessimistic about our future, I’m deeply concerned that we don’t have the ability to stand-up for our democracy.

    Standing-up is not extremism. It’s just the opposite. Not standing-up only encourages extremism.

    Pete, you’re very intelligent and big on history. I would suggest that you read Thucydides on the balance of power. There’s a real world out there.

    As I remember, tell me if I’m wrong, that you’re pretty much a novice in the area of politics.

  21. Inadvertently I’m sure, Ken Glass defined the view of the conservative liberal continuum from the conservative perspective at the tail end of yesterday’s column.

    “You have Democrat presidential candidates fighting over who can give away the most stuff”

    I think that it’s Republican presidential candidates fighting over who can give away the most stuff.

    But to the wealthy not the poor who need help.

    Anybody agree?

  22. Marv, my view of extremism is anything that’s not middle of the road; balanced; considering the specifics of any particular problem and all possible solutions to it.

    Solutions don’t favor a worldview they favor ration and evidence.

    The most reliable discipline for progress in human history has been communication early in evolution and science since.

    Not because of anything other than science is about working the problem not worshiping any solution.

    Once the pendulum gets back in the middle I may celebrate my Republican heritage again.

    That I would consider progress.

    Please don’t take any comments of mine as personal. I mean only to work the problem. Sometimes that comes across as provocative. Sometimes it is.

  23. The answer to these travesties in the exchange of money for political power to be exercised in the future by recipients in return for puffball speeches and/or votes on amendments to the internal revenue code, for instance, (and however disguised as honorarium or campaign contribution), is to educate the otherwise ignorant and/or uninformed masses so that they can vote out such snake oil front men and women from office. On the other hand, if our politicians can as a matter of pretended policy “keep ’em dumb” (as the Republicans are apparently doing with their stonewalling against money for education, mistreatment and putdown of classroom teachers, threats to totally dismantle the Department of Education etc.), and in the process gather more and bigger honoraria and more votes, then why not? Republicans have a perfect model to follow in that provided by their big-pocketed denizens of Wall Street, whose member big banks admittedly bribed Chinese officials and defrauded mortgage holders by the millions and have only paid chump change fines, the same “big banks” whose executives are still on the street looking in instead of out of their deserved prison cells. Snake oil people such as those who come up with new miracle compounds that cure everything from cancer to bubonic plague and people such as Carson and his paymasters who profit from such fraud should, ideally, be prosecuted for aiding and abetting theft. Instead we have them running for president (a gambling casino-owning Trump with multiple bankruptcies of companies under his control, Rubio with sticky fingers in campaign funds here in Florida et al.) Whatever happened to our standards of conduct for high office? What, in short, is going on (or not going on)?
    In all events, it is clear that Carson is a phony, and he has lots of company on the political stage, some of whom should be attending their parole hearings rather than attending a political forum asking America to install them in the Oval Office.

  24. Pete,

    On June 30, 2008, I predicted in the Nation Magazine that Barack Obama would hit an “iceberg.” That’s more than four months before he was elected and eight months before the Tea Party was formally formed.

    Do you believe I could do that without real evidence? Don’t you think that maybe the fact that I had been both a federal and state prosecutor might help in that regard. Or that I had been counsel for the man in Dallas who created the Far Right Movement? This is all on my website: Didn’t you read it?

  25. Marv, although I was never a Dobson follower I know several people that are. Interesting info that I will have to check out. It certainly doesn’t surprise me that a highly regarded religious figure would have a dark side. I think Franklin Graham is a dark person too.

  26. Nancy,

    There was an awfully good reason why we needed the separation of church and state. I’ve used the past tense, since for the most part it is gone.

  27. One thing that you hit perfectly is that your focus is on politics but mine is on solutions. The two perspectives aren’t, surprisingly to some, synchronized although both are important and contribute.

    There’s a movie out now called “Our Brand is Chaos” that’s a comedy focused on politics.

    That being said, it’s no wonder that we have differences of opinion. We’re on different subjects.

  28. Pete,

    You’re absolutely right. But, I’m about political + solutions. I’m about regime change to solve democratic problems.

    I changed the political regime in Jacksonville toward democracy in 1964 and did the same in Dallas in 1991. I was the main strategist in both.

    Both transformations were PEACEFUL SOLUTIONS. The change in Dallas is still holding, however the one in Jacksonville is now collapsing.

    From my past experiences, democracy is never a given. You have to be continually diligent.

    My memory is not as good as it use to be. I can’t remember who said it first.

  29. The quotation I was referring to in the above post has been wrongly attributed to Thomas Jefferson. Actually, the author was John Philpot Curran back in the 18th Century. It goes as follows:

    “The conditions upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.”


  30. I cannot attribute to the Clintons the nebulous evils imagined. If Hilary has any credentials still remaining among the cynical progressives it’s women’s rights. Further we have little idea which princes gave and for what causes. I too would take very large sums for the right reasons.

    I’m like many in that Bernie Sanders is the most consistent progressive candidate but I have so little faith in his ability to either win or govern I must keep Hilary in sight. I’m reasonably clear the same is true for other democratic candidates. Money today – 7/3 on Hilary. Ideology today – 8/2 Bernie.

    Op – re Carson. Reeks of personality disorder. His murderous violence is unexplained. His outrageous falsehoods intended or not are disqualifiers. His affect isn’t connected. He’s flat, distant, sounds like he’s been on lithium and valproic acid for decades.

    I don’t follow find his religious speak or policy speak knowledgable or particularly sincere. I suspect multiple issues in the background including the above and a brilliant ability to focus while acting out a masked narcissistic rage. He’s scary.

  31. Al, I could live with Bernie but would be happy with Hillary because I believe that she’d get more of the progressive agenda to unseat conservatives done yet slow down in the center of the road.

    While I don’t disagree with much of Bernie’s agenda I’m afraid of an adverse Tea Party reaction. I think that it’s essential that their reign of terror be ended forever.

  32. Marv, many people assume that everyone sees that democracy is the only path to true freedom. That’s not my experience. Most people want to have control over “them”, the only variable being who “they” are.

    Everybody equal in rights takes some real thought to understand as the closest possible path to empowered society.

  33. Pete,

    I agree with you completely on both accounts. The reaction to Bernie Sanders candidacy and the society’s lack of understanding about democracy can combine to introduce the terror that both of us fear with a Republican victory in the 2016 Presidential Election.

  34. Al, I agree with your comments about Carson – he is very scary. I basically said this in my earlier comment. Something is VERY VERY unsettling to me about that man.

  35. Marv, there was definitely a very good reason that our government’s founders required separation of church and state. Our country has become embroiled in a movement by the evangelicals to merge the two and I am surrounded by idiots that want to see that happen.

    I no longer care what those ignorant people think of me when I point out their ignorance after listening to them go on and on about getting God back into every corner of our government and that the only religion acceptable is theirs. They are THE most judgmental people on earth as they pick and choose what portions of the bible they want to judge others on.

    Haven’t seen Gopper on here since I suggested he read a few select bible scriptures yesterday that pertain to him. They were about removing the plank from your his eye before judging the splinters in other people’s eyes. Very fitting verses for him to be reminded of. I am not a bible thumper at all, but I was fed up with him and his very un-christian judgmental ways. Sometimes you just have to hit those people where they will feel the pain.

  36. This blog brought to mind the 1979 story of the Green family of Scituate, MA, who were convinced by somebody (snake oil salesman) that Laetrile (concoction of apricot pits and peach pits) was the potion to cure cancer rather than proven and approved cancer meds and protocols. So, they fled to Mexico for the “treatment” with their son, 3-year-old Chad, a cancer victim. Ten months later he succumbed to the cancer.

    Ben Carson and Mannatech are not far removed from this kind of tragedy…just a newer model with different names. How very sad!

  37. Evangelicals believe that theocracy doesn’t work in the Middle East but would here with our God. The epitome of egocentricity.

  38. I don’t know if Dr Carson is still licensed to practice medicine or not, but if he is, like Dr Oz, he ought to be the medical equivalent of disbarred.

  39. A Discovery channel has recently showed old shows of Carson performing delicate separation surgery on conjoined twins. Odd that they would appear at this point in time. Sounds like subliminal advertising to me. Coincidence, you say? I dunno, but….

Comments are closed.