In a striking and unnecessary instance of score-settling, Donald Trump unloaded on vanquished rival Ted Cruz on the morning after being crowned the Republican presidential nominee, leveling insults and repeating conspiracy theories about the Texas senator.
Delivering a stream-of-consciousness speech to more than 300 friends and campaign supporters at his hotel before departing Cleveland, Trump blasted Cruz as “dishonorable,” and said if the lawmaker decided to endorse him in the future, “I will not accept it.”
Even as the convention was punctuated by displays of frustration with his candidacy, including Cruz being booed after declining to endorse him, Trump claimed the week put party unity on display. “There wasn’t one person in the room [who wasn’t booing] including the Texas delegation,” Trump said. “Honestly he may have ruined his political career,” he continued. “I feel so bad for him.”
Trump seemed to leave it there for a moment, as he moved back to more traditional territory for a major party presidential nominee, thanking those involved in putting on the convention. He also previewed the difficulty he says he’ll have watching Hillary Clinton’s speech to the Democratic convention next week. “One, I know her to well. Number two, boring,” he taunted.
But soon Trump was back attacking Cruz. “Maybe I’ll set up a super PAC if he decides to run [for re-election],” he said, turning to someone off stage with a question. “Are you allowed to set up a super PAC, Mike, as president?”
Trump also dredged up some of the nastiest moments of the 2016 primary, including incidents in which he retweeted a meme insulting Heidi Cruz and trumpeted a National Enquirer story questioning Cruz’s father’s ties to Lee Harvey Oswald.
“I didn’t do anything,” he said of the retweet, before suggesting it was merely retaliation for a Ted Cruz-allied PAC sending photos of a scantily clad Melania Trump from her modeling career to voters in Utah. “I didn’t start anything with the wife,” he added. “GQ magazine is not exactly Penthouse.” He added that he thought Mrs. Cruz was beautiful, adding, “I think it’s the best thing he’s got going with his kids.”
On providing a boost for assertions that Rafael Cruz was involved in the Kennedy assassination, Trump was even less apologetic. “All I did was point out that on the cover of the National Enquirer there is a picture of him and crazy Lee Harvey Oswald having breakfast.” He also suggested that the tabloid magazine should have been awarded a Pulitzer Prize for uncovering the John Edwards affair. “I know nothing about his father. I know nothing about Lee Harvey Oswald, but there was a picture on the front page of the National Enquirer of them having breakfast,” he repeated.
Trump earlier said Cruz getting booed offstage at the Republican National Convention was “a beautiful thing.” “He did get booed off the stage, and I think that’s a good thing as far as I’m concerned, because I let him speak,” Trump told CBS’s Ted Koppel. “The arena erupted in boos towards the end of his speech, because they saw he wasn’t going to endorse. And I thought that was a beautiful thing.”
The timing of the Friday morning remarks is likely to overshadow the carefully scripted image the Trump campaign hoped to display to American voters at the convention. But it also comes as the media has moved on to Hillary Clinton’s impending selection of a running-mate, and ensures Trump will remain in the news through the weekend.
— With reporting by Daniel White