Ted Cruz responded forcefully Friday to a National Enquirer report that suggested the married Texas senator had engaged in extramarital affairs with five women and blamed opponent Donald Trump for its existence.
"Let me be clear. This National Enquirer story is garbage. It is complete and utter lies," the GOP presidential candidate told reporters after appearing at an Oshkosh, Wis., town hall. "It is a tabloid smear and it is a smear that has come from Donald Trump and his henchmen."
Cruz singled out the only named source in the tabloid’s story, former Trump political adviser and longtime GOP operative Roger Stone, who was quoted as saying, “where there is smoke there is fire.” Cruz said Stone was so well known for his political dirty tricks that he was identified with a vulgar term describing “copulating with a rodent.”
“Donald may be a rat but I have no desire to copulate with him,” said Cruz. “This garbage does not belong in politics.”
Trump issued a statement instead of a tweet, his usual form of communication with supporters. “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,” he said.
Trump continued to refer to Cruz as “Lyin’ Ted” and brought up the tabloid’s accurate stories on former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, a onetime N.C. senator, who had a child from his extramarital affair, and the Enquirer’s reporting on O.J. Simpson, acquitted of murdering his wife and her friend.
“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,” said Trump in a statement that he also posted on Facebook. “I look forward to spending the week in Wisconsin, winning the Republican nomination and ultimately the Presidency in order to Make America Great Again."
Trump and Cruz are in an intense competition to win enough delegates to claim the GOP nomination. Trump is the frontrunner but they are locked in a close race in Wisconsin, which holds its primary April 5. Most recently, they have been engaged in a war of words about their wives,
The Enquirer did not name the five women that Cruz was alleged to have relationships with, but it published pixelated pictures of them and enough identifying details that, within hours, names were called on Twitter.
Two of them responded publicly Friday denying any affair with Cruz. Amanda Carpenter, a former Cruz communications director who appears as a political commentator on CNN, was questioned by pro-Trump columnist Adriana Cohen on a midday program.
Although their discussion was initially about how the candidates’ wives Heidi Cruz and Melania Trump were being portrayed, Cohen brought up the Enquirer story and said, “you’ve been named Amanda.” Carpenter responded heatedly, “What’s out there is tabloid trash. If someone wants to comment on it, they can talk to my lawyer . . . . It is categorically false.”
The other woman who Twitter followers identified was Katrina Pierson, a national spokeswoman for Trump.
“Of course the National Enquirer story is 100% FALSE!!!” she tweeted. “ I only speak to myself, however.” (She apparently meant to say “for” herself.)
Pierson is from Texas and, as a tea party activist, worked for Cruz’s campaign for U.S. Senate in 2012. She ran her own campaign challenge against Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, in 2014 and had the support of Cruz’s father but lost. She supported Trump last year and has often been the face of the campaign for cable news programs.