During the Fox News-Google debate in Des Moines, Iowa, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz said he’s taken the high road in his squabbling with fellow candidate -- and frontrunner -- Donald Trump.
"I have not insulted Donald personally, and I don't intend to," Cruz said during the Jan. 28, 2016, debate.
We wondered, is Cruz’s claim accurate? Not really.
Cruz, who once had a warm relationship with Trump, has been increasingly taking jabs at him, ever since Trump attacked him for possibly not qualifying for the presidency (due to his birth in Canada) and for saying things like, "Ted is a nasty guy. People don't like him." (Cruz’s staff did not respond to an inquiry.)
One attack line Cruz has used that might be considered a personal insult is that Trump embodies "New York values."
During a previous GOP debate in North Charleston, S.C., moderator Maria Bartiromo pressed Cruz on his use of that line. The Texas senator doubled down. "You know, I think most people know exactly what New York values are," Cruz said.
"I am from New York," Bartiromo said. "I don't."
Cruz responded, "What? You're from New York? So you might not. But I promise you, in the state of South Carolina, they do."
Later in the debate, Trump parried Cruz’s attack by citing the city’s response to the 9/11 attacks as examples of "New York values." Trump received plaudits from many observers for his counter-shot, but that didn’t stop Cruz from later releasing a television ad with the closing line, "Donald Trump: New York values. Not ours."
Another example of a Cruz swipe at Trump: After Trump pulled out of the Des Moines debate, saying that Fox moderator Megyn Kelly was biased against him, Cruz mockingly referred to the businessman as "gentle Donald" at a West Des Moines event.
"Apparently Mr. Trump considers Megyn Kelly very, very scary," Cruz continued. "And, you know, Donald is a fragile soul."
He also said that debate questioning could make Trump’s hair "stand on end."
Cruz also had a joke at Trump’s expense during an appearance at the Jackson County Fairgrounds in Iowa. Cruz referred to Trump’s earlier citation of "two Corinthians" in the Bible, rather than the more usual title, "Second Corinthians."
Cruz joked, "Two Corinthians walk into a bar -- Ah, yes, Ricardo Montalban -- genuine Corinthian leather!" (Those Cruz’s age or older may recall the old Chrysler Cordoba commercials in which Montalban, the late, debonair actor, touted the car’s "Corinthian leather," which was actually a figment of the carmaker’s marketing imagination.)
Then there’s the line Cruz used earlier in the very same Des Moines debate in which he made light of the absent Trump’s habit of insulting his fellow candidates: "Let me say I’m a maniac and everyone on this stage is stupid, fat and ugly. And Ben (Carson), you’re a terrible surgeon. Now that we’ve gotten the Donald Trump portion out of the way…."
To be fair to Cruz, there’s a fuzzy line between making personal insults and fair-game critiques.
And Todd J. Gillman has written in the Dallas Morning News that Cruz’s attacks "are sharp but indirect. And usually, he leaves enough wiggle room that Iowans believe him when he insists that he’s the one taking the high road, refraining from name-calling and personal insult."
For instance, Gillman cited a comment Cruz made on the Christian Broadcasting Network, that "this election is not about any one person, any one individual who believes he or she will make America great. You know what, for seven years we’ve had a president in the White House who has had a Messiah complex."
Gillman asked, "Did Cruz say Trump has a Messiah complex? Not exactly, but it definitely sounded that way."
Cruz said, "I have not insulted Donald personally." Determining what qualifies as an "insult" is somewhat in the eye of the beholder, but Cruz has certainly mocked Trump during several recent public appearances. We rate his statement Mostly False.