Gowdy: Cruz' campaign lied about my endorsement

Shades of Iowa? The Ted Cruz campaign has found itself accused of a dirty trick in South Carolina, and popular Palmetto State Congressman Trey Gowdy is hopping mad about it. Gowdy endorsed Marco Rubio six weeks ago, but Facebook posts reported that Gowdy was switching allegiance to Cruz. Gowdy responded by blasting the campaign and Cruz personally for “spreading false information and lies”:

“The truth actually matters to me and to all South Carolinians,” Gowdy said in a statement earlier Tuesday. “Unfortunately it appears that the campaign of Senator Ted Cruz may not place the same value on waging a contest based on the truth and facts.”

Gowdy said Cruz and his allies had launched a “systematic effort” in the past week to “spread false information and outright lies.”

“Now it’s been reported that a fake Facebook page has been used to fool South Carolinians into thinking I no longer support Marco Rubio and that I’m instead supporting Ted Cruz,” Gowdy said. “Nothing could be further from the truth and I’m demanding that Senator Cruz and his campaign repudiate these dishonest and underhanded tactics.”

The Greenville News caught up with Cruz on the campaign trail and asked him whether his campaign floated those false reports. Cruz denied it, and blamed Rubio for spreading false reports about the false reports:

“We had nothing to do with that, and I think it is unfortunate that the Rubio campaign would make allegations with no evidence,” Cruz told The Greenville News during an interview on his campaign bus just before he took the stage at the Anderson Civic Center.

“We had nothing to do with that,” Cruz said. “And we would not have anything to do with such a thing.”

That last declaration might be a little tough to swallow after Iowa, although they’re not quite the same thing. In Iowa, the Cruz campaign passed around a CNN report on Ben Carson’s travel plans along with the suggestion that he might be pulling out of the race — a not-unreasonable analysis of the situation. When CNN updated their report to note that Carson had explained the travel plans and confirmed his intent to keep campaigning, Cruz campaign staffers neglected to provide the update, allowing the false impression to remain.

This would be somewhat more of a “dirty trick,” although “dirty” in the context of a political campaign is entirely subjective. That’s especially true when the candidates themselves seem to be more focused on who’s the biggest liar in the race rather than who’s the best candidate. Those attacks are direct; fibbing about a campaign surrogate’s status has at least a slight whiff of dirtiness, but YMMV. Gowdy certainly seems to think so, and if he’s as influential in South Carolina as Rubio hopes, that might be a problem for Cruz — which is why Cruz’ response is to attack Rubio rather than Gowdy.

It took a day or so for Cruz to apologize to Carson. Will he apologize to Gowdy? Not before Saturday, I’m guessing, and after that it won’t matter anyway — unless the nomination really does come down to a brokered convention.

Update: It’s worth asking, as Jeff Goldstein did in a series of tweets, whether former prosecutor Gowdy has evidence that the Facebook postings actually came from the Cruz campaign:

It would be interesting to see Gowdy respond to this. Personally, I’d guess that Gowdy is a smart enough prosecutor to have his bases covered on this, but we’ll see if that’s the case.