Cruz fires top staffer for promoting false story about Rubio and the Bible – Politico
Ted Cruz on Monday asked for the resignation of top aide Rick Tyler, who he accused of a “grave error of judgment” for promoting a false story that questioned Marco Rubio’s faith.
The story and accompanying transcript from The Daily Pennsylvanian, a student newspaper, said Rubio had walked by a Cruz staffer on Saturday who was reading a Bible, and told him it didn’t “have many answers in it.”
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Tyler, Cruz’s communications director, posted the story on Facebook on Sunday, but later deleted it and apologized after a Cruz staffer said Rubio didn’t make any such comment. But Cruz decided greater action was needed.
“Our campaign should not have sent it. That’s why I’ve asked for Rick Tyler’s resignation,” Cruz told reporters in Las Vegas, where he was campaigning ahead of Tuesday’s Nevada caucuses.
He said he spent the morning investigating what happened before coming to his conclusion. “I have made clear in this campaign that we will conduct this campaign with the very highest standards of integrity,” he added.
Cruz’s swift action comes as the Texas senator is facing increased fire from his rivals, who have accused him of running a dirty campaign with no accountability. The complaints ratcheted up earlier this month, when Ben Carson took Cruz’s campaign to task for spreading false rumors during the Iowa caucuses that the retired neurosurgeon was dropping out. But the accusations really started flying in South Carolina, with protests over robocalls, photoshopped images, and other underhanded tactics.
Rival campaigns have labeled Cruz a liar, and have gone to great lengths to try to make that reputation stick.
Earlier on Monday, Rubio said Cruz needed to take greater responsibility for his campaign’s actions. “Who’s gonna be fired when Ted Cruz is president? Because his campaign now has repeatedly done things that they have to apologize for and no one’s ever held accountable,” Rubio told reporters. “Who’s gonna be held accountable for making up this video? Who’s gonna be held accountable for lying about Ben Carson? Who was held accountable for the robocalls? And who’s held accountable for the commercials on television that they had to pull down? Again, I think it’s a very disturbing pattern of deceptive campaigns and flat-out just lying to voters.”
He added that the questions about his faith were particularly a low blow. “They proactively promoted it and pushed it on people that somehow I had disrespected the Bible. I know exactly what I said to that young man,” Rubio said.
Tyler posted a mea culpa early Monday morning for his prior distribution of the piece. “I want to apologize to Senator Marco Rubio for posting an inaccurate story about him here earlier today,” Tyler said. “The story showed a video of the Senator walking past a Ted Cruz staffer seated in the lobby of a hotel reading his Bible. The story misquoted a remark the Senator made to the staffer. I assumed wrongly that the story was correct. According to the Cruz staffer, the Senator made a friendly and appropriate remark.”
Tyler was scheduled to appear live on MSNBC on Monday afternoon, but left shortly after Cruz’s press gaggle in which he announced he was firing Tyler, according to NBC News correspondent Katy Tur.
Trump reveled in the chaos following Cruz’s announcement. The billionaire sent off a series of tweets criticizing Cruz and calling him the “biggest liar in politics.”
“Wow, Ted Cruz falsely suggested Marco Rubio mocked the Bible and was just forced to fire his Communications Director. More dirty tricks!” he tweeted.
“Ted Cruz has been playing an ad about me that is so ridiculously false – no basis in fact,” he added. “Take ad down Ted. Biggest liar in politics!”
The news of Tyler’s departure follows conservative radio host Erick Erickson’s criticism of Tyler and Cruz’s messaging.
“Ted Cruz has the best campaign operation in Campaign 2016, whether or not you like him. They have the best ground game,” Erickson said in a post early Monday morning titled, “Cruz’s Communication Strategy Needs a Reboot.” ”But when the messaging is wrong, none of that matters. Cruz’s messaging is a muddled mess. Rick Tyler has had several awkward television appearances. The campaign, which has a general election strategy, has sold few people on Cruz’s electability.”
While praising Cruz’s campaign for its fundamentals, Erickson said the Cruz camp has to shift the narrative questioning their honesty. “His campaign message of ‘Trust Ted’ left him exposed to that attack and his campaign has done little to combat it,” he continued. “Going forward that must change.”
Rubio’s campaign hammered Cruz’s camp over the past 36 hours for Tyler’s original Facebook post.
Alex Conant, Rubio’s communications director, posted a video he said had the correct transcript. Any other video “is another dirty trick by Cruz camp,” he said. “How do I know? I’m in the video!!”
“I said the answer to every question you’ll ever have is in that book, and then I pointed to the Book of Proverbs, which he was reading, and I said particularly that one, which is a book of wisdom,” Rubio later clarified to reporters.
Tyler said he asked the blog to correct its story. The Daily Pennsylvanian originally stood by its transcript, but later added an editor’s note saying, “Though our original transcription reflects what we originally heard, after reviewing the audio, we feel it is too unclear to say for sure.”
Rubio’s campaign praised Tyler but said he “had the unenviable task of working for a candidate willing to do or say anything to get elected.”
“There is a culture in the Cruz campaign, from top to bottom, that no lie is too big and no trick too dirty,” Conant said. “Rick did the right thing by apologizing to Marco. It’s high time for Ted Cruz to do the right thing and stop the lies.”
Shane Goldmacher and Hadas Gold contributed to this report.