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Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign unleashed a TV ad this week suggesting New York businessman Donald Trump, the national frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, retains liberal New York values and might consider Iowans stupid.
The ad distorts what Trump once said about his since-changed views on abortion and misleadingly ties Trump's October 1999 comments in an interview on NBC-TV's Meet the Press to a 2015 speech in which Trump floated a question about the stupidity of Iowans and Americans about someone else.
Cruz’s ad, "New York Values," opens by excerpting a Trump reply in the interview by Tim Russert aired Oct. 24, 1999. Trump came on the show saying he was likely to run for president in 2000 as a Reform Party candidate, though he ultimately didn't.
The Cruz ad begins with Trump telling Russert: "I mean, hey, I lived in New York City and Manhattan all my life, OK? So, you know, my views are a little bit different than if I lived in Iowa."
Left out of this bit: Trump said "if I lived in Iowa, perhaps." Also not revealed in the Cruz ad, Trump was speaking to a question about allowing gays in the military; he'd immediately before told Russert: "It would not disturb me. Again, I'd want to talk to lots of experts within the military. But it's not something that would disturb me."
Next, the Cruz ad’s female narrator says of Trump's views: "They are different" as those words appear on screen.
"Like on abortion," she says, with those words on screen. The video swings back to the interview with Russert asking: "Would President Trump ban partial birth abortion?"
Trump replies: "Well, look. I am pro-choice in every respect."
Trump said in a June 2015 CNN interview he’s since changed his position and would nominate Supreme Court justices who share his "pro-life" stance. In an August 2015 interview aired on Meet the Press, Trump said: "I'm pro-life. And I was begrudgingly the other way. But I have to say when those questions were asked, and that was many, many years ago, I wasn't a politician." Trump also said abortion should be legal in cases of rape, incest and "if the mother is going to die," calling those conditions "pretty much the standard three exceptions that many Republicans have."
The Cruz ad captures Russert’s 1999 question, but leaves out a chunk of how Trump replied, including repeated declarations that he "hates" abortion.
Here’s Trump’s initial reply to Russert and their full exchange on the topic:
TRUMP: "Well, look, I'm very pro-choice. I hate the concept of abortion. I hate it. I hate everything it stands for. I cringe when I listen to people debating the subject. But you stillI just believe in choice. And, again, it may be a little bit of a New York background, because there is some different attitude in different parts of the country. And, you know, I was raised in New York, and grew up and work and everything else in New York City. But I am strongly for choice and, yet, I hate the concept of abortion."
RUSSERT: "But you would not ban it?"
RUSSERT: "Or ban partial birth abortion?"
TRUMP: "No. I am pro-choice in every respect and as far as it goes, but I just hate it."
Finally, the narrator of Cruz’s ad says: "And what does Trump think of the people of Iowa?" Similar words appear on screen before Trump appears, his hands outstretched, telling a crowd: "How stupid are the people of Iowa?"
The ad closes with the narrator saying, as words appear on screen: "Donald Trump. New York values. Not ours."
This distortion may, ahem, trump others in the Cruz spot because when Trump asked the "how stupid" question, during a lengthy Nov. 12, 2015, community college appearance in Fort Dodge, Iowa, he was urging voters to join him doubting the veracity of personal stories told by Republican hopeful Ben Carson, then running well in polls. Singled out by Trump: Carson saying he'd once tried to hit his mother in the head with a hammer, hit a friend in the face with a padlock and tried to lunge at a friend’s stomach with a camping knife, which then broke on the person’s belt, Carson wrote.
See the "stupid" moment in Trump’s remarks starting about the 1:30 mark of the video posted here.
TRUMP: "And he plunged it into the belt and and amazingly the belt stayed totally flat and the knife broke. How stupid are the people of Iowa? How stupid are the people of the country to believe this crap?"
Trump went on to make other remarks doubting Carson’s accounts including: "And the people of Iowa believe him. Give me a break, give me a break. It doesn't happen that way."
In no way, of course, was Trump talking in that appearance about his changed position on abortion or New York values. Nor, one could argue, was he saying more than Iowans and Americans might be stupid if they believe Carson's stories.
Transcript, Donald Trump interview, Meet the Press, NBC, Oct. 24, 1999 (posted by Vote Smart)
Transcript, Chuck Todd interview of Donald Trump aired on Meet the Press, Aug. 16, 2015
TV ad, "New York Values," Ted Cruz presidential campaign, Jan. 25, 2016 (YouTube video)
Video of Donald Trump remarks, Dodge City, Iowa, Right Side Broadcasting, Nov. 12, 2015 (YouTube video)