U.S. Republican Ben Carson’s 2016 presidential bid was thrown into chaos on Thursday when his campaign manager and some 20 other staff members quit amid infighting, dropping poll numbers and negative media coverage.
Barry Bennett, who oversaw Carson’s rapid rise to the top tier of Republican contenders and his later fall, said he quit over differences with another top adviser to Carson, Armstrong Williams.
Specifically, Bennett blamed Williams for an interview Carson gave last week to The Washington Post suggesting that the campaign was in disarray. “It’s one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen a candidate do,” Bennett said.
Things had “boiled over” with Williams, Bennett told Reuters. “For the past seven weeks, I’ve been doing nothing but putting out Armstrong Williams-started fires,” Bennett said.
He also charged Williams was behind a story in The New York Times that suggested Carson was out of his depth on foreign policy.
Carson’s communications director, Doug Watts, also resigned due to differences with Williams, Bennett said. Some 20 staff in total left, he said. Among them was deputy campaign manager Lisa Coen.
Williams, a political commentator who holds no official role with the campaign, said he was “shocked” by Bennett’s criticism. “They’re giving me a lot more credit than I deserve,” he told Reuters.
He suggested Bennett and Watts left the campaign rather than be fired. “Right now, they’re upset and they need a scapegoat, and I’m the scapegoat,” Williams said.
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