Every morning when I pore through my email to separate the two or three messages worth reading from the 97 to 98 that are not, I encounter dozens of equally disposable pop-up ads in the margins of my inbox.
They promote everything from toenail fungus cures, accompanied by lurid illustrations, to warnings from stoner comic Tommy Chong to “throw out your CBD now!” presumably before the inert cannabis cops kick in my door.
But lately, Tommy Chong’s image in my morning mix of unwanted solicitations has been joined by that of another familiar figure, from an entirely different galaxy in the celebrity endorsement universe. I now receive several daily pitches for brain power and memory enhancement supplements said to be endorsed by former brain surgeon and presidential candidate Ben Carson, the current U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary.
As a professor of neurosurgery, oncology, plastic surgery and pediatrics at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Carson has certainly accomplished more than I could ever aspire to with my bachelor’s degree in political science and on-the-job training in bush league journalism.
He has developed new methods for controlling seizures and treating brain stem tumors and successfully separated conjoined twins.
I have interviewed the inventor of a hand-cranked rotary flyswatter, previewed a museum exhibit on the history of toilets and experienced the exhilarating challenge of driving down Brooks Mountain in the New River Gorge with fried brakes and a catatonic photographer.
But after Carson retired from the world of medicine to enter the realm of politics, things have happened to make me wonder about his effectiveness as an endorser of brain and memory supplements.
For instance, during a 2015 debate between GOP presidential candidates, Carson angrily insisted he had no involvement with a health supplement producer that had been fined millions of dollars for deceptive sales practices.
Seconds later, after calling his alleged ties to the firm “propaganda,” he suddenly remembered that he had been paid thousands of dollars for giving speeches to the company’s sales staff and had used the supplement himself, calling it “a good product.”
He then apparently forgot what he had just said and doubled back to double down, insisting that any suggestion he was in any way involved with the firm was “absolutely absurd.”
The following year, during a campaign appearance in his childhood neighborhood in Detroit, Carson was in the midst of a live interview with CNN when he suddenly realized he had forgotten the location of his luggage.
Then, wearing a puzzled expression, he walked away from the interviewer and camera crew, apparently to try to find his runaway suitcases.
In August of this year, Carson apparently had trouble keeping track of his ethics and, according to Axios News, urged President Trump to push for FDA approval of an herbal extract as a cure for the coronavirus, although no medical trials had been done to test the extract’s efficacy in treating COVID-19 in humans. The extract was produced by a firm financially backed by My Pillow founder and Trump booster Mike Lindell.
Then, on Nov. 9, after Carson apparently forgot to wear a mask while attending an election night party at the White House, he tested positive for COVID-19. Who did the neurosurgeon and elite medical school professor turn to for treatment advice? A pillow designer, of course!
Carson followed Lindell’s advice and took a dose of the extract of the oleander plant.
According to a post Friday on the HUD secretary’s personal Facebook page, Carson felt short-term relief from COVID symptoms for several hours after taking the herbal remedy, but within hours became “desperately ill.”
Trump, who had been monitoring Carson’s condition, saw to it that he was given the same monoclonal antibody therapy the president received after he tested positive for the virus in October. “I am convinced that it saved my life,” Carson wrote on his Facebook page.
Should I come down with COVID-19 in the next couple of months, I hope I remember to make a call to the president and ask him to shortlist a dose of monoclonal antibody therapy for me. Oh, wait. I just remembered. We’re not friends.
Maybe I should place an order for a brain supplement when the next ad for a Carson-endorsed product pops up so I’ll remember to make friends in high places to qualify for the Carson-Trump treatment.
Meanwhile, I think I’ll tune in a home shopping channel and order a My Pillow. I’d like to stay comfortable while waiting for hell to freeze over.