Ben Carson ratcheted up his criticism Friday of rival Republican candidate Ted Cruz following the release of purported voicemail messages showing Cruz campaign operatives spreading the “false” rumor to Iowa caucus-goers that he was dropping out of the race.
“This kind of deceitful behavior is why the American people don't trust politicians and don't trust Washington, D.C. If Senator Cruz does not act, then he clearly represents D.C. values,” Carson said in a fundraising email that includes the audio.
The feud between Carson and Cruz has been building all week, particularly as Donald Trump seizes on the dispute to publicly challenge Cruz’s caucus-night victory.
But Carson’s complaints were bolstered overnight, as Breitbart.com obtained and released audio that reportedly showed messages from the Cruz campaign to a precinct captain Monday evening in Iowa. One such message said Carson was ready to suspend his campaign and directed Cruz’s ground team in Iowa to “inform any Carson caucus goers of this news and urge them to caucus for Ted instead.”
Cruz has said all week that his political team made a mistake – by forwarding an initial news report saying Carson was taking a break from the campaign trail, without forwarding an update to that same story.
He apologized to Carson earlier this week, telling Fox News, “They should have forwarded that subsequent story. That was a mistake on our part.”
However, the voicemails suggest the campaign, as Carson alleged, did more than simply forward a news report -- and actively circulated claims that Carson was suspending his campaign.
Carson has said he accepts Cruz’s apology, but wants the senator to punish those responsible.
He did so again in Friday’s email, saying: “I call on Senator Cruz to take decisive action at a senior level within his campaign or I fear this culture of destructive behavior will only continue.”
Trump, meanwhile, has pointed to the caucus-night tactics in accusing the Texas Republican senator of cheating -- calling for either a new election to be held or the results to be nullified.
"It was a fraud as far as I'm concerned," Trump, who finished second in the caucuses, told Fox News' Greta Van Susteren Wednesday evening. "I think what he did is disgusting. He said that Ben Carson, who's a fantastic guy, had dropped out."
Cruz accused his opponent of throwing a “Trumpertantrum.”
“It seems his reaction to everything is to throw a fit,” Cruz said Wednesday, adding: “He’s losing it.”