Carson said in response to a question at Wednesday night's Republican presidential debate that it was "total propaganda" to suggest he had a relationship with Mannatech Inc., which claims to cure autism and cancer with its products and settled a $7 million false advertising lawsuit. National Review's Jim Geraghty, who reported on the candidate's ties to Mannatech earlier this year, called Carson's claim that he wasn't involved with the company a "bald-faced lie."
The audience loudly booed CNBC moderator Carl Quintanilla when he asked Carson whether his ties to the company "speak to your vetting process or judgement in any way." "See, they know," Carson said, implying the question was off-base.
Yet Williams told Tapper on "The Lead" that he thought it was fair for Quintanilla to ask Carson about his ties to the company. He argued that Carson wasn't involved hammering out the details of his speeches or testimonials for the company, though.
"Nothing is ever what it appears to be," he said. "What is good about this is that I actually negotiated the contract as his business manager."
After Tapper played a clip of Carson speaking in a Mannatech promotional video, Williams started talking about an entirely different video that Carson appeared in for the company. He recounted that when Mannatech asked Carson to travel to Arizona to tape a special for PBS, Carson called him to express discomfort with the script the company provided. Carson ultimately ditched that script in favor of saying "what he wants to say," according to Williams.
"He said 'I don't believe this. I'm not going to do it,'" Williams said. "That was showing his integrity. And when that was over he made it clear to me 'You need to get me out of this, I'm not going to do this again.' And it was over."
Tapper pressed Williams to clarify the nature of Carson's ties to Mannatech.
"That does seem to suggest there was some relationship," the CNN anchor said. "It's over now, but there was some relationship at some point."
Williams didn't answer the question directly.
"Obviously when the Washington Speakers Bureau books you to go and give a speech," he said, "sometimes you may not always know all the details because there are some things that are negotiated that you're unaware of. Like the script."
Watch the interview: