Ted Cruz on Friday accused “Donald Trump and his henchmen” of planting the seeds behind a “garbage” National Enquirer report alleging that the Texas senator has had extramarital affairs.
“This National Enquirer story is garbage. It is complete and utter lies,” Cruz said after a campaign event in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. “It is a tabloid smear, and it is a smear that has come from Donald Trump and his henchmen.”
The National Enquirer published an article Wednesday alleging that the Texas senator had five secret mistresses. While it did not identify the alleged mistresses by name, the article included headshots of five women that were pixelated with black bars over their eyes.
The article also quoted Roger Stone, a former Trump adviser who is still close to the real-estate mogul. “These stories have been swirling about Cruz for some time,” Stone said in the National Enquirer. “I believe where there is smoke there is fire. I have to believe this will hurt him with his evangelical Christian supporters.”
In his minutes-long tirade against Trump, Cruz accused the mogul and his operatives of concocting a months-long plan to tarnish his reputation. During the media availability, the Texas senator said that Stone, the architect of myriad sexual allegations against Bill Clinton, had long been foreshadowing this attack.
Cruz also said it was no accident that Trump on Tuesday fired off a tweet threatening to “spill the beans” on his wife, Heidi, and that the National Enquirer article quoting Stone came out the day after.
“And I would note that Mr. Stone is a man who has 50 years of dirty tricks behind him. He’s a man whom a term was coined for copulating with a rodent. Well let me be clear, Donald Trump may be a rat but I have no desire to copulate with him. And this garbage does not belong in politics,” Cruz said.
Trump issued a statement Friday afternoon denying any involvement with the National Enquirer.
“I have no idea whether or not the cover story about Ted Cruz in this week’s issue of the National Enquirer is true or not, but I had absolutely nothing to do with it, did not know about it, and have not, as yet, read it,” Trump said.
“I have nothing to do with the National Enquirer and unlike Lyin’ Ted Cruz I do not surround myself with political hacks and henchman (sic) and then pretend total innocence. Ted Cruz’s problem with the National Enquirer is his and his alone, and while they were right about O.J. Simpson, John Edwards, and many others, I certainly hope they are not right about Lyin’ Ted Cruz,” he added.
Friday’s blistering accusations mark the apex of the intense back-and-forth this week between the only Republican presidential candidates with a mathematical path to securing the GOP nomination outright.
Ever since Trump sent the tweet on Tuesday night — in which he accused without evidence that Cruz was behind an anti-Trump super PAC ad using a racy photo of Trump’s wife Melania — the Texas senator has been ratcheting up his rhetoric against Trump.
On Friday, it reached a fever pitch. “Donald, when he’s losing, when he’s scared, when Republicans are uniting against him, decides to peddle sleaze and slime,” he told reporters in Oshkosh. “You know, Donald is fond of giving people nicknames. With this pattern he should not be surprised to see people calling him ‘Sleazy Donald.’”
He went on to lament the lasting impact of the accusations. “Years from now when my daughters Google this, they will read these lies, these attacks that Donald and his henchmen and his buddies at the National Enquirer spread about him,” Cruz said. “By the way, here’s how rumor gets spread. They get their henchmen to put it out on the Internet and then they get the National Enquirer to report. Not based on evidence, not based on facts, not based on witnesses, but based on their reporting that it’s on the Internet after they put it on the Internet.”
But even as Cruz has excoriated Trump, he has refused to directly answer whether he would support Trump if he becomes the nominee.
He was pressed again Friday. “I will say this: I don’t make a habit out of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my family,” Cruz said. “And Donald Trump is not going to be the Republican nominee. Donald Trump is not going to be the Republican nominee. We are going to beat him.”
Cruz’s path, however, keeps narrowing. Trump leads Cruz in the race to secure the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination, 739 to 465.
The nasty fight between Trump and Cruz also played out on the cable networks with their surrogates.
During a panel discussion earlier on Friday on CNN, Trump supporter and Boston Herald columnist Adriana Cohen pivoted to the Enquirer story, targeting former Cruz communications director Amanda Carpenter, who was also live on the network.
“Where we should move to is the National Enquirer story that has reported that Ted Cruz has had affairs with five mistresses, including you’ve been named as well, Amanda,” Cohen said. “If we’re going to call Donald Trump’s character into question, I would like Ted Cruz to issue a statement whether or not the National Enquirer story is true, that he has had affairs with many women, including you were named, Amanda. Will you denounce this story or will you confirm it?”
CNN anchor Kate Bolduan tried to shift the conversation away from the rumor mill, but Carpenter responded, calling it “tabloid trash” and insisting she won’t be intimidated.
“It’s categorically false. You should be ashamed for spreading this smut,” Carpenter said. “Donald Trump supporters should be held to account for it.”
Cruz, during his media availability, also tried to diagnose Trump, who has been married three times and allegedly cheated on his first wife with a woman he eventually married two months after giving birth to their daughter.
The Texas senator said the real estate mogul appears to be suffering from psychological projection.
“Donald Trump will soon be the textbook entry for that phenomenon,” Cruz said. “And the question that the people of America are going to have to answer is how low will Donald go and is this behavior, these attacks, directed — he’s directed these attacks at others. He’s directed these attacks at Megyn Kelly. He directed these attacks at Carly Fiorina. He directed these attacks at Columba Bush, Jeb Bush’s wife. Donald has demonstrated he is willing to attack anyone and everyone.”
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