Elections

Cruz Campaign Admits It Hurt Carson With False Dropout Claims

After initially denying it did anything wrong, Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign admitted Tuesday it incorrectly spread a rumor that Ben Carson dropped out of the presidential race in advance of the Iowa caucuses.

Cruz’s campaign blamed the “mistake” on CNN, saying it saw an incorrect breaking news report and forwarded the information to organizers on the ground.

“Last night when our political team saw the CNN post saying that Dr. Carson was not carrying on to New Hampshire and South Carolina, our campaign updated grassroots leaders just as we would with any breaking news story,” the campaign told CNN. “That’s fair game. What the team then should have done was send around the follow-up statement from the Carson campaign clarifying that he was indeed staying in the race when that came out.”

In an email sent by Iowa staffer Spence Rogers to precinct captains, the Cruz campaign cited non-specific media sources to say a Carson departure was imminent.

“Breaking News. 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 email said. “Please inform any Carson caucus goers of this news and urge them to caucus for Ted Cruz.” It’s unclear what the Cruz campaign based its claim of an upcoming “big announcement” on, if it was based on anything at all.

CNN did initially report that Carson was flying to Florida instead of New Hampshire or South Carolina, causing many to assume Carson was suspending his campaign, but the network didn’t actually say a drop-out was imminent. Carson’s campaign fired back by saying the candidate was simply swinging by his home to “get a fresh set of clothes.”

Carson himself accused the Cruz campaign Monday night of using a “dirty trick” to steal votes in Iowa. He also said Cruz should fire staffers responsible for the deed.

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