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Ted Cruz Blames Donald Trump for ‘Garbage’ National Enquirer Story

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Updated: | Originally published: ;

Capping an already remarkable week that left presidential candidates feuding over spouses, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz on Friday blamed rival Donald Trump for planting a story in the National Enquirer that asserted Cruz had carried on several extramarital affairs.

Cruz strongly denied the report, which quoted Trump adviser Roger Stone. “I want to be crystal clear: these attacks are garbage,” the Texas Senator wrote in a Facebook posting. “For Donald J. Trump to enlist his friends at the National Enquirer and his political henchmen to do his bidding shows you that there is no low Donald won’t go.”

Trump said in his own Facebook post that he did not plant the story and has not yet read it. “Ted Cruz’s problem with the National Enquirer is his and his alone, and while they were right about O.J. Simpson, John Edwards, and many others, I certainly hope they are not right about Lyin’ Ted Cruz,” Trump wrote. But a Trump ally, columnist Adriana Cohen, was ready to repeat the accusations. Cohen confronted one of Cruz’s alleged mistresses—live on CNN, where the woman is an analyst. The woman denied that sort of relationship.

In a campaign that already has seen candidates sparring over the size of their genitals, it really should not have come as a shock that the candidates are now debating the merits of an Enquirer story, let alone pushing it as though it were as valid as any reason to vote for or against a candidate. And with 227 days until Election Day, there’s no telling just how much more afield this campaign will go. There’s little reason to expect serious policy discussions to play a major role, at least at the moment.

Instead, they were forced to defend their spouses, who at times were treated like props in the campaign. The Republican Party is already facing an uphill climb to reach female voters who could help make history and elect the nation’s first female President in Hillary Clinton, and the spat was unlikely to help the GOP. Republicans were watching the disagreement unfold as the likelihood of a contested nominating convention became increasingly likely.

The latest installment of an at-times juvenile contest played out Friday, as a visibly angered Cruz also spoke to reporters in Wisconsin. He called the report a “tabloid smear” and “lies” at a news conference. “Trump may be a rat, but I have no desire to copulate with him,” Cruz said.

The bad blood between Cruz and Trump has been getting stronger in recent days. Earlier in the week, Trump suggested that he might “spill the beans” about Heidi Cruz if a pro-Cruz super PAC continued to post nude photos of Melania Trump from her days as a model. Yes, the potential future First Lady of the United States has posed for nude photos. No, the pro-Cruz super PAC did not stop using them.

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Write to Philip Elliott at philip.elliott@time.com