Election 2020

Carson: 'Will There Be Any Consequences' for Cruz Camp's 'Dirty Tricks'?

Ben Carson speaks during a campaign event Jan. 30, 2016, in West Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Ben Carson told CNN today that he accepts the apology from Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) campaign for “dirty tricks” at the Iowa caucuses, “but it doesn’t correct the problem.”

The Cruz campaign seized on this tweet last night from CNN reporter Chris Moody: “Carson won’t go to NH/SC, but instead will head home to Florida for some R&R. He’ll be in DC Thursday for the National Prayer Breakfast.”

Cruz’s national campaign co-chairman, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), tweeted the report and added, “Carson looks like he is out. Iowans need to know before they vote. Most will go to Cruz, I hope.”

Additionally, messages were sent about the report to Cruz precinct captains, adding that Carson was making a big announcement next week — something CNN did not report. The message advised staffers to let voters know Carson would be out and to switch their votes to Cruz.

“Breaking News. The press is reporting that Dr. Ben Carson is taking time off from the campaign trail after Iowa and making a big announcement next week,” the email read. “Please inform any Carson caucus goers of this news and urge them to caucus for Ted Cruz.”

Carson’s campaign issued a statement in the middle of vote tallying Monday night, stressing that the doctor “is not suspending his presidential campaign, which is stronger than ever.”

“After spending 18 consecutive days on the campaign trail, Dr. Carson needs to go home and get a fresh set of clothes. He will be departing Des Moines later tonight to avoid the snow storm and will be back on the trail Wednesday,” said Carson’s communications director, Larry Ross, adding they look forward “to meaningful debates in New Hampshire and South Carolina.”

Cruz issued an apology to Carson, stressing that “last night when our political team saw the CNN post saying Dr. Carson was not carrying on to New Hampshire and South Carolina, our campaign updated the grassroots leaders just as we would with any breaking news story. That’s fair game.”

“What the team should have done is send around the follow-up statement from the Carson campaign clarifying that he was indeed staying in the race when that came out,” added the statement.

Cruz surrogate King tweeted today: “I respect Ben Carson & regret any miscommunications. Perhaps supporters r unaware of this CNN story.” He added the link to the report about Carson going to Florida.

Speaking to CNN by phone today from his Florida home, Carson said the question is now “will there be any consequences for that” in Cruz’s campaign “or will it be the same kind of thing we saw in the IRS scandal” with no accountability.

“What keeps this from continuing to happen?” Carson added.

Asked if someone’s head should roll for potentially costing Carson, who finished fourth place with 9 percent, the neurosurgeon replied, “Whoever is responsible for blatant lies should be dismissed, absolutely.”

“Unless that kind of behavior is acceptable in your campaign culture.”

Carson also dismissed skepticism about his Florida break days away from the New Hampshire primary, noting “anybody who’s been on the road for almost three weeks recognizes exactly what I’m talking about” as far as the need for fresh clothes and your own bed.

After the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday — the event where Carson’s political career was essentially launched in 2013 when he called out President Obama — the presidential candidate has a fundraiser in North Carolina, followed by stops in New Hampshire, South Carolina, “and the whole thing starts up all over again,” Carson said.

Carson said he feels best about his chances in South Carolina because of the mix of social and fiscal conservatives in the state. “Once we really get there and start rolling there’s going to be a lot of traction there,” he predicted.

Carson said he wants the campaign to stay on policy. “I think I have more policy than virtually anybody.”

On Monday night as caucus results came in, Carson told supporters he was “reasonably happy today until I discovered the dirty tricks that were going on.”

“And people spreading rumors that I had dropped out and that people should caucus for somebody else,” he said. “I mean, do you think that that is something that’s acceptable?”

“I believe so much in America, but for some reason, we have allowed things to slip. And it was Josef Stalin who I guess put it very succinctly. He said, ‘In order to destroy America … you have to undermine three principles: their spiritual life, their patriotism, and their morality.’ And he said, ‘If you can undermine those things, America will collapse from within.’ Well, we’re within the process of collapsing from within if we continue to accept deceit and dirty tricks and lies. And people who do that are still viable candidates for president of the United States. And we accept it. That’s the problem that’s going on.”

According to Fortune, Carson’s Iowa co-chair and state representative Rob Taylor said of the Cruz camp’s actions, “This is horseshit.”