Ben Carson called on Ted Cruz to fire staffers after allegations they falsely told Iowa caucus-goers that Carson was dropping out of the race.
Speaking at a last-minute press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Wednesday afternoon, Carson said, “Let me put it this way. When I discovered that there were things in my campaign that I couldn’t agree with after really doing an investigation, I made changes,” Carson said, referencing his December campaign shake-up. “I think that’s what a good leader does. If there are things that are going on that you don’t agree with, you have to make changes. Now if he agrees with it, he doesn’t need to make changes.”
Carson said he has spoken to Cruz and that the Texas Senator apologized, saying he did not know members of his staff were falsely telling Iowans Monday night that Carson was exiting the race. “He could very well have not known about it,” Carson said. “But it is obvious that there are people in his organization who not only knew about it, but who carried it out and executed it.”
Despite calling the press conference “in response to deceptive Iowa caucus tactics,” as the advisory said, Carson would still barely refer to Cruz by name. Instead, the former neurosurgeon relied on a portion of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7: “By their fruit you will recognize them.”
“I didn’t say a word about Ted Cruz,” Carson said testily when a reporter asked him to clarify what he was hinting at. “What I said is what we need to be able to do is look at a person’s life, look at the way a person does things, look at the way a person treats other people, and make a judgment.”
“I’m talking about what everybody does,” Carson said. “By their fruit you will know them. That was the Sermon on the Mount. And it was in the context when Jesus said there are some people who aren’t what they seem to be, who say one thing and do another. But you can always tell who they are by their fruit.”
“It seems very clear that’s Ted Cruz,” a reporter pushed back.
“You’re the one [saying that],” Carson responded.
Carson’s reluctance to criticize Cruz comes from a deeply-held tenet of his campaign: from the outset, he has said he will not, under any circumstances, attack another candidate. He reiterated that belief today when asked what he thought of Donald Trump wading into the Cruz fight on Twitter.
“I have a tendency, as you’ve probably noticed over the last several months, not to talk about other people and what their intentions are and what they do,” Carson said. “I will continue that.”
It’s a promise that may be easier said than done in a race that will only get more heated.
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Write to Tessa Berenson at tessa.Rogers@time.com