A day after winning the Iowa caucuses, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz reportedly apologized Tuesday to fellow Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson for his campaign's attempts to use a news report about Carson taking a brief break from the campaign trail to sway his supporters at Monday evening's Iowa caucuses.
"Last night when our political team saw the CNN post saying that Dr. Carson was not carrying on to New Hampshire and South Carolina, our campaign updated grassroots leaders just as we would with any breaking news story," Cruz said in a statement to CNN. "That's fair game. What the team then should have done was send around the follow-up statement from the Carson campaign clarifying that he was indeed staying in the race when that came out."
Carson spokesman Larry Ross spoke to The Texas Tribune Tuesday afternoon just after learning of Cruz's statement.
“Though the news of last night suggested Mr. Cruz has become just another D.C. politician, Dr. Carson is grateful for and has accepted his apology made just a few minutes ago,” Ross said. “But these political tactics are part of the reason Dr. Carson got into this race and is some of the politics as usual that he is trying to change.”
News broke Tuesday evening shortly before the Iowa caucus began that Carson would be heading home to Florida later that night rather than flying directly to a state with an upcoming primary. Cruz campaign officials and supporters immediately latched on to the development in a last-minute effort to add more voters to their ranks.
Right as the caucus process was beginning at 7 p.m., the official Ted Cruz mobile app sent a message to some users in Iowa.
“CNN is reporting that Ben Carson will stop campaigning after Iowa,” the alert read. “Make sure to tell all of your peers at the caucus supporting Carson that they should coalesce around the true conservative who will be in the race for the long haul: TED CRUZ!”
U.S. Rep. Steve King of Iowa, a national co-chair of Cruz's campaign, then sent a tweet at 7:20 p.m. while caucusing was ongoing that further inflamed tensions.
“Carson looks like he is out,” King wrote, linking to the news. “Iowans need to know before they vote. Most will go to Cruz I hope.”
Though Carson's campaign publicly refuted the suggestion that Carson was dropping out of the race, Cruz supporters at various caucuses responded to those mobile alerts by announcing before voting began that Carson would be dropping out, according to various reports from caucus-goers.
After learning of these efforts by the Cruz campaign, Carson described them as “dirty tricks," according to multiple media reports. In an appearance on "Fox & Friends" Tuesday morning, Carson called on the Cruz campaign to fire anyone involved in the “shenanigans.”
“If Ted Cruz doesn’t know about this, then he clearly needs to very quickly get rid of some people in his organization,” Carson said. “And if he does know about it, isn’t this the exact kind of thing the American people are tired of?”
Carson’s campaign manager Ed Brookover also expressed anger Monday night to reporters in Iowa.
“To have campaigns come out and send emails to their caucus speakers suggesting that Dr. Carson was doing anything but moving forward after tonight is the lowest of low in American politics,” Brookover said, according to Fortune.
Cruz campaign spokesman Rick Tyler dismissed the allegations Tuesday morning in an appearance on MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe.’
“We simply as a campaign repeated what Ben Carson had said in his own words,” Tyler said. “That’s not a dirty trick. That was really surprising by a campaign who was once leading in Iowa that is saying he’s not going to come to New Hampshire. I mean, that’s a news item.”