Ben Carson Adviser Floats New Explanation for Syria Interview

Armstrong Williams says the candidate simply ignored questions about whom he would call to form an anti-ISIS coalition because he found them “silly.”

Armstrong Williams Reacts to NYT Story on Ben Carson

Ben Carson's team has an explanation for the candidate's recent string of alleged foreign policy gaffes. 

Hours after being quoted in a New York Times article saying Carson “froze” during an interview with Fox News Sunday's Chris Wallace, Carson adviser Armstrong Williams offered another take on the Republican presidential contender's seeming inability to name which allies he would reach out to first to defeat the Islamic State terrorist network. 

“Dr. Carson is very dismissive of the question,” Williams said Tuesday on Bloomberg's With All Due Respect. “It was a hypothetical, and Dr. Carson does not like answering hypotheticals and so he intentionally did not answer the question.”

Armstrong took the blame offering the Times the wrong word when describing how the interview transpired, claiming that in a conversation with Carson Tuesday morning, the candidate told him “he just thought it was a silly question.”

The Times based its story on interviews with Carson advisers, especially Duane R. Clarridge, a former C.I.A. agent, who painted a negative picture of Carson's preparedness on foreign policy matters. 

“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 paper. 

Carson's campaign went into damage control mode after the story was published Tuesday, portraying Clarridge, 83, as an “elderly gentlemen” whom the Times had taken advantage of. Williams argued that Clarridge simply was unaware of foreign policy advice the candidate was receiving. 

“Mr. Clarridge is probably not aware that Dr. Carson talks to 13 0r 14 different people on foreign policy all the time, and Mr. Clarridge, particularly at his state in life, he feels very strongly about what he believes in his experience that he feels very few people share, and he feels that the more time, if he had more time to speak to Dr. Carson, he feels very deeply that he could enhance his foreign bona fides,” Williams said. 

Carson also finds himself under fire for his assertion, made in the most recent Republican presidential debate, of Chinese involvement in the conflict in Syria.

“We also must recognize that it’s a very complex place. You know, the Chinese are there, as well as the Russians, and you have all kinds of factions there,” Carson said during the Nov. 10 debate. The White House has since rebutted that assertion, and Williams sought to reframe what Carson meant by it. 

“Dr. Carson never said there were troops on the ground. He said that in terms of munitions, and ammunition, and advisers, and intelligence the Chinese are in Syria, and he stands by that statement,” Williams said, adding, “Dr. Carson has gotten this from many sources.”

At the heart of the back-and-forth is the question of whether Carson, who has never held elected office nor served in any capacity on matters of foreign policy, was up to the job of commander-in-chief.

“Listen, guys, the landscape of foreign policy in the country, the dynamics are changing every day,” Williams said. “You take any of those presidential candidates, you tell me what foreign policy experience they have except some talking memo of some briefing they have. Dr. Carson is the kind of thinker, he wants to immerse himself in the details, like he did in learning his psychology course, like he did in learning medicine. Dr. Carson learns. He learns from 13 or 14 different people.”

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