Hard to believe the Times would be so petty in its disdain for Cruz that they’d kick him off the list and then lie about it, especially when, as their spokesman notes, right-wing authors like Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter routinely make the cut. But maybe Cruz is a special case. Unlike Beck and Coulter, he’s an electoral threat. And unlike most righty populists, the left considers him a traitor to his class. As a Harvard-trained lawyer and champion debater, he’s supposed to be a liberal. Why would they help promote the work of someone so disloyal?

The reason given by the Times on Friday for excluding him from the list is that his book is allegedly benefiting from bulk purchases. You know how those work: A pol’s campaign or some associated PAC buys, say, 5,000 copies and then gives them away as part of a fundraising gimmick or at an event. Those aren’t “real” sales because they don’t necessarily measure the public’s true demand for the book. Just one problem: According to Amazon, they haven’t seen any evidence of bulk purchases for Cruz’s work.

“As of yesterday, ‘A Time for Truth’ was the number 13 best-selling book, and there is no evidence of unusual bulk purchase activity in our sales data,” Sarah Gelman, Amazon’s director of press relations, said in an email.

Amazon’s findings match those of HarperCollins, the book’s publisher, which said Friday that it had “investigated the sales pattern” for Cruz’s book and found “no evidence of bulk orders or sales through any retailer or organization.” Moments after that announcement, Cruz’s campaign issued a press release accusing the Times of lying and calling on the paper to provide evidence of bulk purchasing or else formally apologize.

Time for the Times to admit error and correct? Why, no, of course not:

Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy on Monday said the newspaper is standing by its decision to keep “A Time for Truth” off its bestseller list.

“I can’t speak to the statements by Amazon or Harper Collins — though obviously publishers are always trying to get their authors on our list — but we are confident in our conclusion about the sales patterns for the Cruz book for the week in question,” Murphy said in an email…

“The notion that we would manipulate the bestseller list to exclude books for political reasons is simply ludicrous,” she said.

Oddly enough, they won’t provide the evidence for believing that bulk purchases were involved. Here’s a theory based on precisely nothing: Maybe the Times, in surveying book stores and online retailers, got reports of unusually large purchases at a couple of them and jumped to the conclusion, incorrectly, that those were part of a systematic bulk-purchase scheme. And now that they’ve been exposed, they’re too proud — and too nervous, given how it would cast doubt on the methodology of the bestseller list generally — to admit that Cruz is right and that they goofed. Better to bite their lips, insist contrary to available data that their suspicions are correct, and let Team Cruz milk this snub for all it’s worth. That’s the grand irony of the episode: Leaving his book off the list and causing this brouhaha is a glorious publicity gift to a guy whose base loathes the Times even more than the Times loathes Cruz. If I were Harper Collins, I’d start marketing it as “the book the New York Times doesn’t want you to read.” He’ll sell 100,000 copies.

Update: Gabe Malor notes something in the CNN piece linked above that I overlooked in the excerpt. A spokesman from Barnes & Noble also said they’ve seen no evidence of bulk purchases. Exactly where did the Times get this idea?