So, #CruzSexScandal is trending on Twitter.
This, of course, has the Trump Twitter Luftwaffen giddy beyond belief. They’re firmly convinced that the National Enquirer’s anonymously sourced story alleging that Cruz has had extramarital affairs with at least five women must be true. After all, wasn’t the National Enquirer right about Senator John Edwards (D-NC) and Tiger Woods? Well, sure, but then again, they’ve also alleged that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would be dead in six months (that was in early October, so clock’s a-tickin’) and that Barack Obama had at least 12 mistresses.
No one can say for certain that Cruz has been faithful to his wife, any more than we can be certain that anyone is faithful to his wife. As I've tweeted:
BTW, if #CruzSexScandal turns out to be true, I'll dump Cruz faster than Trump dumps his latest wife when he sees a supermodel upgrade.— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) March 25, 2016
But here are five things we do know about the National Enquirer story.
1. Trump’s People Have Been Pushing The Story. Trump has a long, friendly history with the CEO of the National Enquirer, as Gabe Sherman of New York Magazine pointed out back in October:
Trump and Enquirer CEO David Pecker have been friends for years. “They’re very close,” said a source close to the Enquirer. In July 2013, Trump even tweeted that Pecker should become CEO of Time magazine, which at the time was being spun off from its corporate parent, Time Warner. “He’d make it exciting and win awards!”
In fact, Sherman said that Trump’s campaign had planted information with the National Enquirer that Dr. Ben Carson had botched surgeries:
This person also said that Trump’s campaign was a source for the article: “His campaign provided information that was used,” he explained. A Trump friend said that in the days leading up to the article’s publication Trump was telling people that Carson “had a lot of medical malpractice suits” and “almost killed a guy.”
The Trump campaign denied that, and so did the Enquirer.
In this case, the only person quoted by name in the entire National Enquirer Cruz story is Roger Stone, a longtime Trump advisor, who said, “These stories have been swirling around Cruz for some time. I believe where there is smoke there is fire. I have to believe this will hurt him with his evangelical Christian supporters.”
And, of course, today Adriana Cohen, a Trump surrogate, directly asked Amanda Carpenter, one of the women fingered by the Enquirer, about the story on air. So the story is being propagated by the representatives of the only confirmed philanderer Republican candidate left in the race.
2. Katrina Pierson, One Of The National Enquirer’s Women, Has Denied The Story. Pierson, you may recall, is Trump’s campaign press spokeswoman. She would have every interest in confirming the story, given that it would put an end to Cruz’s presidential hopes and, indeed, his entire career. Yet here’s what she’s tweeted this morning about the Enquirer story:
What's worse? People who actually believe the trash in tabloids, or the ones who know it's false &spread it anyway? #stupidity on all levels— Katrina Pierson (@KatrinaPierson) March 25, 2016
She then followed up with this rather disgusting tweet, which keeps the scandal alive even though she apparently has no evidence of anything else ever happening with Cruz:
Of course the National Enquirer story is 100% FALSE!!! I only speak to myself, however.— Katrina Pierson (@KatrinaPierson) March 25, 2016
3. Amanda Carpenter, Another Of The National Enquirer’s Women, Has Denied The Story. Carpenter, a longtime Cruz supporter, appeared on CNN, where Adriana Cohen, one of Trump’s surrogates, promptly accused her of having an affair with Cruz. Carpenter fired back:
What’s out there is tabloid trash. If someone wants to comment on it, they can talk to my lawyer, it is categorically false, you should be ashamed for spreading this kind of smut, Donald Trump supporters should be held to account for it, and I will not be intimidated, I will continue to make my thoughts known about Donald Trump, and I am not backing down.
Sources tell me that Carpenter has indeed hired a lawyer and is considering filing a lawsuit against National Enquirer.
4. The Cruz Super PAC That Donated Money To The Carly Fiorina Campaign Almost Certainly Didn’t Do It To Shut Up Sarah Isgur Flores. Heavy.com reported thusly this morning:
Sarah Isgur Flores, in the center of the supposed de-pixelated photos above, worked for the Fiorina campaign during the 2016 election. As goes the theory, when Fiorina found out about the affair, Cruz silenced her with a half-million-dollar donation. It bears repeating that no one has proof of anything, and Fiorina has herself endorsed and campaigned with Cruz since ending her campaign. Moreover, a photo from Flores’s Twitter shows Fiorina and the Cruz family being quite friendly.
The Cruz Super PAC at issue is Keep The Promise I, which as The Washington Post reported, took in $11 million from Robert Mercer as of the time of the Fiorina gift, but spent almost none of it; in fact, they spent a grand total of $536,169, of which $500,000 went to Fiorina’s campaign at the time of the Fiorina funding. In other words, the likeliest explanation here is that money was placed into a Super PAC by pro-Cruz donors, and the head of that particular Super PAC then proceeded to not use any of it, perhaps out of personal pique at the Cruz campaign. It’s not like the Super PAC dumbed tons of cash into Cruz with a little taste for Carly. They spent nothing. As Colby Itkowitz of The Washington Post reported, “Did Mercer have trouble keeping his own promise? Cruz should have made him pinky swear.” [UPDATE: By now, the Super PAC has spent approximately $8 million; virtually all that spending came after the Fiorina giving.]
5. Cruz Has Denied The Story, And Blamed The Trump Campaign For The Smear. Cruz told the press, “It is garbage, complete and utter lies. It is a tabloid smear and it has come from Donald Trump and his henchmen.” Cruz continued, “This man would be an embarrassment – we don’t want a president that traffics in sleaze and slime,” adding that Trump has an “issue with strong women.” Cruz came as close as possible to stating that he would not back Trump as the Republican nominee. Here's Cruz's statement from Facebook:
I want to be crystal clear: these attacks are garbage. For Donald J. Trump to enlist his friends at the National Enquirer and his political henchmen to do his bidding shows you that there is no low Donald won’t go.
These smears are completely false, they’re offensive to Heidi and me, they’re offensive to our daughters, and they’re offensive to everyone Donald continues to personally attack.
Donald Trump’s consistently disgraceful behavior is beneath the office we are seeking and we are not going to follow.
So far, not one shred of actual evidence has been produced to confirm the Enquirer story. Given the Trump’s campaign apparent allergy to truth, skepticism is highly warranted. We’ll update this story as more information becomes available.
UPDATE: Trump has now responded in his own typically bombastic manner:
Donald J. Trump Responds to Cruz Accusations on National Enquirer Story pic.twitter.com/kOzGsJcDv8— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) March 25, 2016