TIME Sen. Marco Rubio

Rubio Campaign Fires Back at Cruz Over Photoshopped Image

Sen. Marco Rubio participates in a CNN South Carolina Republican Presidential Town Hall in Greenville, South Carolina on Feb. 17, 2016.
Alex Wong—Getty Images Sen. Marco Rubio participates in a CNN South Carolina Republican Presidential Town Hall in Greenville, South Carolina on Feb. 17, 2016.

Marco Rubio’s campaign is firing back at Ted Cruz over a new website that includes a Photoshopped image of the Florida senator appearing to shake the hand of President Obama.

Rubio senior advisor Todd Harris gathered reporters at the rear of a Rubio campaign rally in Greenville, Thursday morning to hand out copies of the photo and to cast Cruz’s campaign as “desperate.”

“This is not Marco Rubio,” Harris said, gesturing to the photo. “This person, we don’t know who that is, but they Photoshopped Marco’s face onto somebody else. This is how phony and how deceitful the Cruz campaign has become.”

The real issue at play isn’t whether Rubio and Obama shook hands—this is no Chris Christie hug. Rather it is an attempt by the Rubio campaign to further the narrative it’s been pushing that Cruz is dishonest, seeking to undercut the Texas senator’s message that he’s trustworthy. “Marco Rubio doesn’t own that tie, he doesn’t own that watch, he doesn’t own that suit,” Harris said.

The website, therealrubiorecord.com, includes a manipulated photo juxtaposing Obama and Rubio’s faces, listing policy areas where Rubio was in supposed agreement with the president, and calling him the “Republican Obama.” “After more than seven years of the destructive policies of President Obama, we shouldn’t replace him with his Republican clone,” the website states.

The website includes an area for visitors to input their contact information to “stand against Rubio.”

“There is so little honesty left in the Cruz campaign that they’re actually willing to Photoshop a fellow Republican’s face onto the body of some other person to completely invent an attack on Marco Rubio,” Harris added.

The website criticizes Rubio for standing with Obama on trade promotion authority—a position Cruz himself once held. “The only difference between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz on TPA is that a month after voting for TPA, Marco continued to support it, Ted Cruz completely flip-flopped on it,” Harris contended.

Shortly after Harris spoke to the press, Rubio’s wife, Jeannette, sent a copy of the original stock image, which had found via image search and features a white man and black man shaking hands, to Rubio advisor Todd Harris. “They reversed it,” she wrote.

“Of course Marco Rubio is throwing a fit because he’s ashamed of his liberal record of standing with Chuck Schumer and Barack Obama to try to pass amnesty,” said Cruz spokesman Rick Tyler. “And let’s not let Rubio’s dirty campaign tactics get a free pass here—Rubio is having his supporters crash opponent events and tape literature inside women’s bathroom stalls, and his campaign is running intentionally misleading statewide robocalls. Again, Rubio will do anything to distract away from his liberal record.”

For its part, the Cruz campaign turned to former Congressman Jack Kingston of Georgia to mock complaints that the campaign was unfair. “This is probably the toughest primary that I’ve ever seen,” Kingston told reporters on a conference call between stops in South Carolina. “Elbows are sharp here.”

But he refused to say his allies in the Cruz campaign were playing unfairly. “I’ve gotten to know Ted and Heidi Cruz personally. I know them to be Christian people of great integrity,” Kingston said, adding that there was “no misrepresentation” happening in the campaign. “The fact is: Marco Rubio was a member of the Gang of Eight who fought for the amnesty bill. That’s very, very concerning for any Republican,” Kingston said.

Kingston said Rubio was feeling the pressure after upping expectations with high-profile endorsement. “You think about the Rubio camp right now, they’re in a must-win situation,” Kingston said. Cruz, he said, should be badly losing, given how the Establishment is rallying against him.

With Philip Elliott in Charleston

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