Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz on Friday slammed an explosive National Enquirer story alleging he had a string of extramarital affairs — and blamed GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump for dishing the dirt.
On the stump in Wisconsin on Friday, Cruz — who appeared with his wife, Heidi — charged Trump and his "henchmen" with planting a "garbage" story about his supposed philandering.
In a statement Friday afternoon, Trump denied responsibility for the rumors — but pointedly referred to other sex scandals on which the Enquirer had gotten it right.
"I have no idea whether or not the cover story about Ted Cruz in this week's issue of the National Enquirer is true or not, but I had absolutely nothing to do with it, did not know about it, and have not, as yet, read it. I have nothing to do with the National Enquirer and unlike Lyin' Ted Cruz I do not surround myself with political hacks and henchman and then pretend total innocence," Trump said.
"Ted Cruz's problem with the National Enquirer is his and his alone, and while they were right about O.J. Simpson, John Edwards, and many others, I certainly hope they are not right about Lyin' Ted Cruz," he went on. "I look forward to spending the week in Wisconsin, winning the Republican nomination and ultimately the Presidency in order to Make America Great Again. "
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The background: "Private detectives are digging into at least five affairs Ted Cruz supposedly had," the supermarket tabloid reported. "The leaked details are an attempt to destroy what's left of his White House campaign!"
The kerfuffle capped off a week marked by savage exchanges between the campaigns over a PAC-funded ad featuring a sultry photo of Trump's wife, Melania.
On Wednesday, Trump threatened to "spill the beans" about Heidi Cruz, spurring the Texas senator, who said he had nothing to do with the ad, to lash back by calling Trump a "sniveling coward."
After telling reporters on the trail Friday that the Enquirer story was patently false, Cruz doubled down in a Facebook post:
In Wisconsin, the senator and his wife shared a warm hug in front of supporters at a town hall event in Oshkosh.
"When I met Ted, I knew I had met more than my match," Heidi Cruz told the audience as she introduced her husband.
She called him "incredibly principled" and "a person of great courage," adding, "I've also learned through our many years together this is the most thoughtful person that I've ever met."
Cruz, in turn, jabbed at Trump for having gone after his wife earlier in the week.
"You know, in the last few days, Donald Trump has taken to attacking Heidi," he said.
"I tell you, I think Heidi is the most beautiful, brilliant, amazing, fantastic loving mom and wife, and she is my best friend in the whole world. I love you with all of my heart."
One of the women alluded to in the story, Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson, also trashed the Enquirer story on Twitter.
Amanda Carpenter, a CNN analyst and former Cruz staffer who was widely viewed as one of the women referenced in the Enquirer piece, called the story a fabrication during a heated television appearance.
"What's out there is tabloid trash," Carpenter said, per Salon. "You should be ashamed for spreading this kind of smut. Trump supporters should be held to account for it."
March 25, 2016, 3:09 p.m.: This article has been updated.