A top ally of Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson says he “regrets” giving out the contact information of a foreign-policy hand who went on to criticise Carson in an interview with The New York Times.
Armstrong Williams, Carson’s longtime business manager, told Business Insider on Thursday that he regrets giving a Times reporter the mobile phone number of Duane Clarridge, whom the newspaper identified as a “top” adviser to Carson on terrorism and national security.
“It’s not that I regret mentioning the name, it’s that I regret giving out the mobile number,” Williams said. “I certainly won’t use that judgment to do it in the future.”
Carson’s campaign has spent the last two days containing the fallout from The Times story. It was sent scrambling to react when the story was published on Tuesday. And on Thursday, Carson distanced himself from Williams, saying he had “nothing to do with the campaign.”
In The Times story, Clarridge was quoted saying that Carson needed weekly foreign-policy conference calls to “make him smart.”
“Nobody has been able to sit down with him and have him get one iota of intelligent information about the Middle East,” Clarridge told The Times.
Shortly after the story was published, Carson campaign spokesman Doug Watts told Business Insider, “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.”
The statement went on to suggest that The Times had taken advantage of an “elderly gentleman.”
The Times then released a statement pointing to Williams as the source of the Clarridge interview.
Williams said The Times story had become a distraction this week as Carson has been getting questions about it on the campaign trail.
“It’s not the kind of thing that he should be talking about on the campaign trail,” Williams said of Carson. “The media calls it transparency, but all it does is cause him to talk about things that he should not be talking about.”
Williams also defended Clarridge, saying he meant no harm with his comments to The Times.
“I think Mr. Clarridge was saying it out of respect because he knows Dr. Carson’s potential,” Williams said. “But when you’re in the political world, that can become quite explosive, and that can be lost on me.”
As for Carson distancing Williams from the campaign with his Thursday comments to reporters, Williams said that Carson “doesn’t have to distance me from something I never was a part of.”
Though Williams hasn’t had a formal role in Carson’s presidential campaign, he has acted as a surrogate for the candidate and often speaks on his behalf.
“What he said is true, I don’t speak for him, I speak on behalf of him,” Williams said. “As [far as] I’m concerned, time will tell. At least in my mind and in his mind I know for a fact that nothing has changed.”
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