Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign wrongly suggested in the moments before the Iowa caucuses that Ben Carson would suspend his campaign. It wasn’t true, and Carson supporters were furious.
Cruz has apologized. But he said at the Feb. 6, 2016, Republican debate that the real culprit was CNN.
"Let me tell you the facts that occurred for those who are interested in knowing," Cruz said. "On Monday night, about 6:30 p.m. CNN reported that Ben was not going from Iowa to New Hampshire or South Carolina. Rather he was ‘taking a break from campaigning.’ They reported that on television. CNN’s political anchors Jake Tapper and Dana Bash and Wolf Blitzer said it was ‘highly unusual’ and ‘highly significant.’ My political team saw CNN’s report, breaking news, and forwarded that news to our volunteers."
According to CNN, what Cruz said "is categorically false."
We agree that Cruz's description is highly misleading.
Here’s how it all unfolded on caucus night.
Between 6:41 p.m. and 6:43 p.m. central time, CNN’s senior political reporter Chris Moody sent a series of tweets reporting that Carson "won’t go to NH/SC will head home to Florida for some R&R" but "Carson’s campaign tells me he plans to stay in the race beyond Iowa no matter what the results are tonight."
Two minutes later, CNN’s Dana Bash and Jake Tapper report Carson’s travel plans during a live broadcast of the caucuses. Bash and Tapper both say that this is "very unusual" and anchor Wolf Blitzer adds that it is "very significant news." But CNN does not say Carson is suspending his campaign. Here’s a transcript:
Tapper: "CNN has learned some news about the man who, at least according to polls, is in fourth place here in Iowa. Now, Dana, a week from tomorrow, we’re all going to be doing this again for the New Hampshire primary. So almost every single candidate is going to be going directly from here to New Hampshire to campaign — except for the man in fourth place, who a few months ago was in first place here, Dr. Ben Carson. What have we learned?"
Bash: "That’s right. We should say that our Chris Moody is breaking this news, that Ben Carson is going to go back to Florida to his home, regardless of how he does tonight here in Iowa. He’s going to go there for several days. And then afterwards, he’s not going to go to South Carolina. He’s not going to go to New Hampshire. He’s going to come to Washington, D.C., and he’s going to do that because the National Prayer Breakfast is on Thursday. And people who have been following Ben Carson’s career know that that’s really where he got himself on the political map, attending that prayer breakfast, and really giving it to President Obama at the time. And he became kind of a hero among conservatives, among evangelicals especially."
Tapper: "But it’s very unusual..."
Bash: "Very unusual."
Tapper: "...to be announcing that you’re going to go home to rest for a few days, not going on to the next site. Plus, he’s already announced that he’s going to be coming out and speaking at 9:15 local and 10:15 Eastern, no matter whether or not we know the results, because he wants to get home and get ahead of the storm."
Bash: "Look, if you want to be president of the United States, you don’t go home to Florida. I mean, that’s bottom line. That’s the end of the story. If you want to signal to your supporters that you want it, that you’re hungry for it, that you want them to get out and and campaign, you’ve got to be out there doing it too. And he’s not doing it. It’s very unusual."
Tapper: "Very unusual news that CNN has just learned. CNN’s Chris Moody breaking the story. Wolf, back to you in Washington."
Blitzer: "Very significant news indeed, guys, thanks very much."
During the discussion, CNN's lower-third graphic does say "CAMPAIGN: CARSON TO TAKE A BREAK AFTER IOWA."
At 6:53 p.m., Carson spokesman Jason Osborne tweets that the candidate "will be going back to Florida to get fresh clothes b4 heading back out on the campaign trail. Not standing down."
Three minutes later, according to Breitbart, the Cruz campaign sends an email telling supporters, "The press is reporting that Dr. Ben Carson is taking time off from the campaign trail after Iowa and making a big announcement."
Here’s an image of the email via the Huffington Post:
Things get worse at approximately 7 p.m., when the caucuses opened. Cruz supporters using the campaign’s mobile app received a message informing them that Carson "will stop campaigning after Iowa."
At 7:07 p.m., Cruz surrogate and Iowa Rep. Steve King retweets Moody, adding, "#iacaucus Skipping NH & SC is the equivalent of suspending. Too bad this information won't get to all caucus goers." An hour later, King sends another Tweet to the same effect.
For what it’s worth, Cruz acknowledged earlier in the week that CNN’s reporting that night was accurate.
"CNN got it correct. Miracles happen. But that is part of the democratic process to let Iowa causers know, here is the news that is breaking. And it is relevant," Cruz said Feb. 3.
Cruz said that it was CNN, not his campaign, that first reported that Carson "taking a break from campaigning," and his campaign forwarded that news to his supporters.
Cruz's campaign took a nugget of information from CNN and took it too far. CNN reported that Carson was "to take a break after Iowa," while simultaneously noting that Carson would ultimately continue campaigning.
The Cruz campaign sent messages on its app anyway, saying that Carson would "stop" his campaign. A key surrogate said that Carson was doing "the equivalent of suspending." That’s more than simply "forwarding" news.
We rate Cruz’s claim False.
Update: This item was updated to include a description of CNN's lower-third graphic.
After the Fact
Cruz campaign: 'How can what Cruz said be false when he quoted CNN’s tweet directly?'
Added on Feb. 8, 2016, 11:45 a.m.
After we published our fact-check, Cruz spokesman Brian Phillips emailed us a tweet from CNN that reads, "After the #IAcaucus, @RealBenCarson plans to take a break from campaigning http://cnn.it/Iowa."
"How can what Cruz said be ‘false’ when he quoted CNN's tweet directly?" Phillips wrote.
CNN sent the tweet Cruz was quoting at 7:08 p.m. central time, about 8 to 12 minutes after the campaign sent its messages on Carson. The Cruz campaign is ignoring the context of Cruz's remarks.
Cruz said his political team saw CNN's report on television (not Twitter) and they "forwarded that news to our volunteers." CNN's televised report noted that Carson was to "take a break from Iowa" but that he would ultimately continue campaigning.
The Cruz campaign did not simply "forward" this news when it informed supporters Carson would "stop" his campaign. Factcheck.org, the Washington Post and the New York Times came to similar conclusions.
Our headline should have been more precise, and we've updated our headline to better reflect the analysis of our fact-check. Our ruling remains False.