'Ben, I'm sorry': Ted Cruz apologizes to Ben Carson on the debate stage

Ted Cruz Ben CarsonScreenshot / ABC NewsTed Cruz and Ben Carson.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) apologised to Ben Carson on stage at the ABC News Republican debate Saturday night for his campaign spreading misleading messages the night of the Iowa caucuses implying that Carson was going to leave the race.

Carson declined to attack Cruz outright when the messages came up at the debate, but said that the campaign’s tactics represented “Washington ethics.”

“Washington ethics basically says, ‘If it’s legal, you do what you need to do in order to win,'” Carson said. “That’s not my ethics. My ethics is you do what’s right.”

When asked why he or his campaign did not call Carson before releasing the messages about him, Cruz called Carson a “good and honorable man” and apologised to Carson.

“When this transpired, I apologised to him then, and I do so now,” Cruz said. “Ben, I’m sorry.”

The night of the caucuses, the Cruz campaign called and sent messages to Iowa precinct captains suggesting that Carson could drop out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination. The messages told the precinct captains that they should encourage people to caucus for Cruz instead.

Cruz ended up winning the Iowa caucuses in an upset over Donald Trump, who came in second place. Carson finished in fourth.

Cruz attempted to explain how the misleading messages came to be:

On Monday night about 6:30 p.m., CNN reported that Ben was not going from Iowa to New Hampshire or South Carolina, rather he was ‘taking a break’ from campaigning. They reported that on television, CNN’s political anchors … said it was ‘highly unusual’ and ‘highly significant.’ My political team saw CNN’s report … and they forwarded that news to our volunteers.

At the time, I was at the caucuses. … I knew nothing about this. Couple hours later, I found out about it, I was told that Ben was unhappy. I called him that evening because I respect him very, very highly. I didn’t reach him that evening. I reached him the next day and I apologised.

I regret that subsequently, CNN reported on that, they didn’t correct that story until 9:15 that night. … Subsequent to that initial report, Ben’s campaign put out a statement saying that he was not suspending his campaign. I wish that our campaign staff had forwarded that statement. They were unaware of it.

Carson accepted Cruz’s earlier apology, but didn’t seem to buy his explanation.

“The timeline indicates that initial tweet from CNN was followed by another one within one minute that clarified that I was not dropping out,” Carson said. “So what happened to that one, it is unclear. … Everybody can see what happened, so you can make your own judgment.”

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