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Story highlights

Ted Cruz is using controversy over transgender restroom access to say that Donald Trump is not committed to the religious freedom of Christians

"Grown adult men -- strangers -- should not be alone in a bathroom with little girls," Cruz said

(CNN) —  

Ted Cruz is creating a wedge with Donald Trump on the controversial bathroom bill in North Carolina, an attempt to paint the Republican presidential front-runner as being politically correct.

It began Thursday morning when Trump said that Caitlyn Jenner could use whatever bathroom she preferred in Trump Tower, and suggested that people should use “whatever bathroom they feel is appropriate.”

Trump was asked about transgender bathroom policy during a town hall on the “Today” show on NBC, discussing in particular the contentious North Carolina measure and his own beliefs on the issue.

“Well look, North Carolina did something that was very strong, and they’re paying a big price, and there’s a lot of problems,” he said. But he then agreed with a commentator’s argument to “leave it the way it is.”

“You leave it the way it is,” Trump said. “There have been very few complaints the way it is. People go, they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate. There has been so little trouble, and the problem with what happened in North Carolina is the strife and the economic punishment that they’re taking. So I would say that’s probably the best way.”

But in a theater here in Western Maryland, Cruz cast the response as proof that Trump isn’t committed to protecting religious rights.

The Texas senator has made protecting religious liberty central to his presidential bid, labeled Trump’s comments as “a stark illustration” of why conservatives in the state, which votes next Tuesday, shouldn’t trust him.

“He thought that men should be able to go into the girls’ bathrooms if they want to,” Cruz said here to building applause. “Grown adult men – strangers – should not be alone in a bathroom with little girls. And that’s not conservative. That’s not Republican or Democrat. That’s basic common sense.”

Cruz then turned it on Trump, who has promised audiences that he could tone down his brash demeanor and act more presidential.

“I guess he’s showing us what that looked like,” Cruz said. “I am waiting with anticipation for the new baseball caps: “Make PC Great Again.’ “

Trump had been asked specifically earlier by host Matt Lauer: “If Caitlyn Jenner were to walk into Trump Tower, and wanted to use the bathroom, you would be fine with her using any bathroom she chooses?”

“That is correct,” Trump said.

The real estate mogul also rejected the idea that buildings should provide a third bathroom for transgender people, saying that would be “discriminatory in a certain way” in addition to prohibitively expensive.