One of Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson's foreign-policy advisers questioned the candidate's grasp of Middle East events in an interview with The New York Times, prompting a quick rebuke from the campaign.
Duane Clarridge, a former CIA agent whom The Times identified as a "top adviser to Mr. Carson on terrorism and national security," said Carson struggles to understand the intricacies of the Middle East and that Carson needs 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.
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Ben Carson facts you should know
Ben Carson's campaign slams bombshell New York Times report as 'affront to good journalistic practices'
1. He is a weekly opinion columnist for The Washington Times.
(Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
2. He is a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and his father was a minister.
(Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
3. He was raised in Detroit by a single mother, alongside is older brother Curtis.
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
4. He is the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award of the United States.
(AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
5. He was the first doctor to successfully separate occipital craniopagus twins in 1987.
(AP Photo/Fred Kraft)
6. He has written six bestselling books, all by an international Christian media and publishing company.
(AP Photo/Brian Witte)
7. He has criticized “political correctness” because he says it goes against freedom of expression, and became known for this idea when he was the keynote speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2013.
(AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)
8. There’s a Lifetime movie made about his life, with Cuba Gooding Jr. in the starring role.
(Photo by Paul A. Hebert/Invision/AP)
9. Before November of 2014 Carson was not a member of any political party.
(AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)
10. He and his wife started a scholarship fund called "Carson scholars fund" in 1994 which has so far awarded 6,700 scholarships to kids for "academic excellence and humanitarian qualities."
(Photo by Louis Myrie/WireImage via Getty)
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Clarridge was repeatedly described by The Times as a top Carson foreign-policy adviser, though Clarridge's exact role in the Carson campaign was not immediately clear. Carson's campaign pushed back on that description of Clarridge, and suggested the paper was taking "advantage of an elderly gentleman."
"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," Doug Watts, a Carson campaign spokesman, told Business Insider in an email.
"He is coming to the end of a long career of serving our country. Mr. Clarridge's input to Dr. Carson is appreciated but he is clearly not one of Dr. Carson's top advisors. For the New York Times to take advantage of an elderly gentleman and use him as their foil in this story is an affront to good journalistic practices."
See how Ben Carson has been doing in the polls recently:
In response to a question about President Barack Obama's decision to send 50 members of special operations forces to Syria and to keep 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan, the retired neurosurgeon said that having the US forces in Syria is better than not having them there. He then noted that Syria is 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.
Foreign-policy experts and journalists questioned this analysis. And the White House colorfully shot down Carson's suggestion that China was involved in the Syrian conflict, a four-year civil war that has torn the country apart and allowed jihadist factions to grow as President Bashar Assad has struggled to hold on to power.
"China has had longstanding and well-documented security ties to Syria, provided various military weapons and equipment that Syria is using in the current conflict," a statement from the campaign said. "Dr. Carson does not believe China is currently fighting in or deploying troops to Syria, and contrary to press reports, he has never made that assertion.
But Armstrong Williams, a top Carson adviser, told Business Insider that intelligence sources and military operatives in the Middle East have told Carson that "Chinese military advisers are on the ground in Syria operating with Russia special operations personnel."
This week, Carson's advisers said his source for the information on China and Syria came from a phone conversation with a freelance American intelligence operative in Iraq, according to The Times. A Carson aide who was on the line noted that the source said that "multiple reports have surfaced that Chinese military advisers are on the ground in Syria, operating with Russian special operations personnel."
But Clarridge told The Times that the information turned out to be incorrect.
The Times reported that the Carson campaign's sole paid foreign-policy adviser was retired Army Gen. Robert Dees, who defended the candidate to The Times.
"Dr. Carson is an amazing intellect," he said. "He has the right stuff to be commander in chief."
The Times has not responded to a request for comment.
RELATED: See Carson on the campaign trail
Ben Carson on the campaign trail
Ben Carson's campaign slams bombshell New York Times report as 'affront to good journalistic practices'
Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson gestures while speaking during a town hall at Abundant Life Ministries in Jefferson, Iowa, Monday, Jan. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
MT. AYR, IA - JANUARY 22 : Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson is introduced during his 'Trust in God Townhall' campaign stop January 22, 2016 in Mt. Ayr, Iowa. Carson, who is seeking the nomination from the Republican Party is on the presidential campaign trail across Iowa ahead of the Iowa Caucus taking place February 1. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson walks through the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016, after holding a town hall. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson smiles during an interview with The Associated Press in his home in Upperco, Md., Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson speaks during a campaign event at Cobb Energy Center Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Republican presidential candidate, Dr. Ben Carson speaks during a town hall meeting at Winthrop University on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015, in Rock Hill, S.C. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)
Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson speaks at a rally Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015, in Henderson, Nev. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Ben Carson, 2016 Republican presidential candidate, speaks during a Liberty University Convocation in Lynchburg, Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. As retired neurosurgeon Carson has risen in the polls, media reports have revisited his accounts of acts of violence as a child, a key part of the redemption story he discusses on the campaign trail. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
PALM BEACH GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 06: Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks to the media before speaking at a gala for the Black Republican Caucus of South Florida at PGA National Resort on November 6, 2015 in Palm Beach, Florida. Carson has come under media scrutiny for possibly exaggerating his background and other statements he has made recently. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson greets well-wishers during a campaign stop, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015, in Lakewood, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks during a campaign stop, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015, in Lakewood, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
FILE - In this Oct. 24, 2015, file photo, Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson greets audience members after speaking at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. Seven in 10 Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters say Donald Trump could win the November 2016 election. That compares to 6 in 10 who say the same for retired neurosurgeon Carson, who, like Trump, has tapped into the powerful wave of anti-establishment anger defining the early phases of the 2016 contest. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
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Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson speaks outside the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity at Iowa State University during a campaign stop, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson, left, laughs as he wife, Candy Carson, waves to the crowd after saying a few words to the crowd supporting her husband in front of supporters Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson greets audience members following a town hall meeting, Friday, Oct. 2, 2015, in Ankeny, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson speaks at a luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington, Friday, Oct. 9, 2015. Carson is promoting a book he has co-authored with his wife Candy Carson entitled 'A More Perfect Union: What We the People Can Do to Reclaim Our Constitutional Liberties.' (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
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Attendees wait for Ben Carson, 2016 Republican presidential candidate, not pictured, to arrive during a campaign stop at the birthplace of the Michigan Republican Party in Jackson, Michigan, U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015. Carson, the third candidate in the Republican race to have never held elected office, saw his numbers drop following the debate last week. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks at a presidential forum sponsored by Heritage Action at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Friday, Sept. 18, 2015, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)
Republican Presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson during a speech to the Commonwealth Club public affairs forum Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks at a rally in Little Rock, Ark., Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson is interviewed in Little Rock, Ark., Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson stands for a photo with a fairgoer at the Iowa State Fair Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015, in Des Moines. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Ben Carson, 2016 Republican presidential candidate, listens as he attends a service at Maple Street Missionary Baptist Church in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015. Carson will be speaking at the Iowa State Fair, which is expected to host 18 presidential candidates and runs until Aug. 23. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson speaks to hundreds of supporters at the Inaugural Basque Fry at Corley Ranch in Gardnerville, Nev. on Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Lance Iversen)
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Republican presidential candidate, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, speaks at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, Saturday, July 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Republican presidential candidate, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, right, speaks with pollster Frank Luntz at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, Saturday, July 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Ben Carson, 2016 Republican presidential candidate, eats a slice of pizza as he tours the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015. In a Sunday interview with Fox News, Carson doubled down on his assertion that a speech given by President Barack Obama intended to sell the American public on his nuclear deal with Iran contained 'coded innuendos employing standard anti-Semitic themes.' Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks at the National Sheriffsâ Association presidential forum, Tuesday, June 30, 2015, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
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Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Rand Paul, left, talks with Republican presidential hopeful Dr. Ben Carson during the Iowa Republican Party's Lincoln Dinner, Saturday, May 16, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Republican presidential candidate and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson speaks at Manchester Community College, Sunday, May 10, 2015, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks in town hall meeting in Baltimore Md., Thursday May 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Ben Carson announces his candidacy for president during an official announcement in Detroit, Monday, May 4, 2015. Carson, 63, a retired neurosurgeon, begins the Republican primary as an underdog in a campaign expected to feature several seasoned politicians. (Photo/Paul Sancya)