Sen. Ted Cruz knowingly misstated CNN’s reporting during Saturday’s Republican primary debate, despite the fact that CNN’s reporting was correct all along.
Cruz blamed CNN for a message his campaign sent to supporters the night of the Iowa caucuses suggesting Carson was going to suspend his campaign.
“My political team saw CNN’s report breaking news and they forwarded that news to our volunteers, it was being covered on live television,” Cruz said during the debate.
Cruz also claimed CNN had inaccurately reported that Carson was suspending his campaign “from 6:30 p.m. to 9:15,” and “didn’t correct that story until 9:15 that night.”
That is false. CNN never reported that Carson was suspending his campaign and never issued a correction, because there was no need to do so.
In a statement out Saturday night, CNN responded, “What Senator Cruz said tonight in the debate is categorically false. CNN never corrected its reporting because CNN never had anything to correct. The Cruz campaign’s actions the night of the Iowa caucuses had nothing to do with CNN’s reporting. The fact that Senator Cruz continues to knowingly mislead the voters about this is astonishing.”
The controversy stems from a CNN scoop that was broadcast last Monday night, minutes before the Iowa caucuses began. Reporter Chris Moody received information from the Carson campaign that he would be taking a break from the campaign trail after Iowa.
Moody, and the other CNN reporters who followed up on the report, said Carson would continue campaigning after taking a break at home in Florida. His next stop, they said, would be Washington, D.C., for the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday.
During CNN’s live coverage, Jake Tapper and Dana Bash called the move “very unusual,” but said nothing about Carson dropping out of the race.
Nevertheless, the Cruz campaign sent a message to supporters in Iowa suggesting that Carson might be suspending his campaign.
“The press is reporting that Dr. Ben Carson is taking time off from the campaign trail after Iowa and making a big announcement next week,” the Cruz campaign email read. “Please inform any Carson caucus goers of this news and urge them to caucus for Cruz.”
Shortly after the CNN report came out, Carson’s campaign downplayed the significance, saying the candidate needed a fresh set of clothes. Meanwhile, political analysts generally agreed with Tapper and Bash’s assessment that it was unusual for a presidential candidate to not rush to New Hampshire. Virtually all of Carson’s rivals hurried to New Hampshire after the caucuses.
The next morning, Carson’s side started lambasting Cruz for “dirty tricks.” This prompted a half-apology from Cruz that pointed a finger at CNN.
“Last night when our political team saw the CNN post saying Dr. Carson was not carrying on to New Hampshire and South Carolina, our campaign updated the grassroots leaders just as we would with any breaking news story. That’s fair game,” Cruz said in a statement. “What the team should have done is send around the follow-up statement from the Carson campaign clarifying that he was indeed staying in the race when that came out. That was a mistake from our end, and for that I apologize to Dr. Carson.”
Essentially the Cruz campaign ignored the inconvenient part of CNN’s original report — that Carson was not dropping out of the race.
In fact, Moody said so explicitly on Twitter: “He plans to stay in the race beyond Iowa no matter what the results are tonight.”
CNN’s Brian Stelter contributed to this report.