MANCHESTER, N.H. — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz apologized to Republican rival Ben Carson for a second time at Saturday night's GOP debate for what Carson has described as "dirty tricks" during Monday's Iowa caucuses. But this time, Cruz did it in person.
Despite his first-place finish in Iowa, Cruz spent much of the week fending off accusations that his campaign deceived caucusgoers into believing Carson was dropping out of the race. Cruz first apologized on Tuesday; Carson quickly accepted, but the retired neurosurgeon nonetheless simmered on the issue onstage Saturday night.
"When this transpired, I apologized to him then, and I do so now," Cruz said. "Ben, I'm sorry."
The unexpected conflict between the two presidential candidates started the night of the caucuses, when CNN reported Carson would not immediately travel to New Hampshire ahead of its Feb. 9 primaries. The Cruz campaign pounced on the news and disseminated a story suggesting that Carson was suspending his campaign, just as the caucuses were taking place.
Cruz went on that evening to defeat real estate magnate Donald Trump for Iowa's delegates. But the next morning, Carson's camp cried foul.
On stage Saturday night with Carson and the other candidates, Cruz qualified his onstage apology, blaming CNN for the initial report.
"Let me tell you the facts of what occurred, for those who are interested in knowing," Cruz said. "On Monday night, about 6:30 p.m., CNN reported that Ben was not going from Iowa to New Hampshire or South Carolina. Rather, he was, quote, 'Taking a break from campaigning.' I reached him the next day and apologized. He asked me then, he said, 'Ted, would you make this apology in public?' I said, 'Yes, I will.' And I did so."
"I regret that subsequently, CNN reported on that — they didn't correct that story until 9:15 that night," Cruz continued. "So from 6:30 p.m. to 9:15, that's what CNN was reporting."
"Sen. Ted Cruz knowingly misstated CNN's reporting during Saturday night's Republican primary debate in an effort to evade responsibility for misleading statements his campaign made about Ben Carson," wrote CNN's Dylan Byers.
Carson may have accepted the Cruz apology, but he seethed in his response.
"It gives us a very good example of certain types of Washington ethics. Washington ethics," Carson said. "Washington ethics basically says, 'If it's legal, you do what you need to do in order to win.' That's not my ethics. My ethics is, you do what's right."
And Carson appeared unimpressed with Cruz's focus on CNN's reporting.
"The timeline indicates that initial tweet from CNN was followed by another one within one minute that clarified that I was not dropping out," Carson said. "So, what happened to that one, it is unclear. But the bottom line is, we can see what happened, everybody can see what happened, and you can make your own judgment."
The tense exchange, one of many clashes between candidates on the stage, was an indication of the high stakes of Saturday's debate, the only such event between the first contest in Iowa on Monday and Tuesday's New Hampshire primary.
Disclosure: The author of this article is a former employee of CNN.