Rick Tyler, (former) communications director for Ted Cruz, thought he had hit smear campaign gold with a video of Marco Rubio making fun of the Bible.
He found it in a short piece in the Daily Pennsylvanian, an independent student newspaper at the University of Pennsylvania, which presents the video clip along with an incredulous condemnation of Rubio’s behavior. The clip shows Rubio walking through a hotel lobby in Columbia, South Carolina, where he finds Rafael Cruz (Ted Cruz’s father), and a Cruz campaign staffer (Christian Collins). When he notices that the staffer is reading the Bible, Rubio points at the book, makes a comment, and then moves on. The audio quality of the clip is poor, so it is difficult to make out what Rubio says. Subtitles have Rubio quipping, “Got a good book there. Not many answers in it, especially that one.” Ouch.
With primaries in the Bible Belt coming up, this would surely be damning for the Rubio campaign – if it were true. But it isn’t. Tyler conveniently forgot to fact-check his source. It later became clear that the subtitles were inaccurate. Rubio actually said the exact opposite: “Got a good book there, all the answers are in there,” pointing at the book of Proverbs. The Cruz staffer has confirmed that Rubio was indeed praising the Bible, not belittling it. Rubio campaign manager Alex Conant set the record straight, posting the clip with the correct subtitles:
This video has correct transcript; any other is another dirty trick by Cruz camp. How do I know? I'm in the video!! https://t.co/llZGimU5Jp— Alex Conant (@AlexConant) February 21, 2016
The Cruz campaign has already been accused of foul play. This latest gaff comes on the heels of another, in which a Ted Cruz ad uses a doctored image of a smiling Marco Rubio shaking hands with President Obama (the horror!). On Twitter, Donald Trump said that Cruz is losing the Evangelical vote because of such “dirty tricks.” The Rubio campaign called Cruz “a candidate willing to do or say anything to get elected.”
Tyler has posted an apology on Facebook, claiming that it was an honest mistake:
It was a suspiciously convenient “mistake.” Even if Tyler really did post the video in error, a campaign spokesperson at his level ought to have known better. It is irresponsible and unethical to distribute such materials without fact-checking them first.
Today, Cruz fired Tyler, distancing himself from his employee’s actions. But can Cruz really be blameless? This latest incident appears to be part of a pattern, suggesting an underlying culture in which the ends justify the means. Potential voters are taking note. Rubio and Cruz have been vying for second place behind Trump, and this latest stunt will likely backfire against the Cruz campaign.
Banner and thumbnail image credit: Gage Skidmore