Senator Ted Cruz has denied as “garbage” a claim made in a supermarket tabloid that he was covering up five extra-marital affairs.
In development that saw the US presidential campaign turn from poisonous to squalid, Mr Cruz told reporters that the claims in the National Enquirer were untrue. He said that had been planted by his rival, Donald Trump, or else his “his henchmen”.
“It is a story that quoted one source on the record: Roger Stone, Donald Trump’s chief political adviser,” said Mr Cruz.
“It is attacking my family. And what is striking is Donald’s henchman, Roger Stone, had for months been foreshadowing that this attack was coming. It’s not surprising that Donald’s tweet occurs the day before the attack comes out.
"And I would note that Mr. Stone is a man who has 50 years of dirty tricks behind him. He’s a man for whom a term was coined for copulating with a rodent. Well, let me be clear: Donald Trump may be a rat, but I have no desire to copulate with him...The question that people are asking is how low will Donald go.”
Speaking in Wisconsin, he accused Mr Trump of being a coward who has problems with “strong women”. “It will not be sufficient for a president. He will send tweets at Putin,” he said.
Mr Trump on Friday afternoon responded to Mr Cruz's comments.
“I have no idea whether or not the cover story about Ted Cruz in this week's issue of the National Enquirer is true or not, but I had absolutely nothing to do with it, did not know about it, and have not, as yet, read it," he said.
"Ted Cruz’s problem with the National Enquirer is his and his alone, and while they were right about OJ Simpson, John Edwards, and many others, I certainly hope they are not right about Lyin’ Ted Cruz."
Earlier, on CNN, a Trump supporter had accused one of Mr Cruz’s spokeswomen of being one of five women said to have had an affair with the senator.
Amanda Carpenter, a CNN commentator who had worked as Mr Cruz’s communications director, said: “It is categorically false. You should be ashamed for spreading this kind of smut.”
The exchanges represent a new low in a campaign already marked by toxicity and which has undertaken every notion of political decorum.
Despite Mr Cruz’s denial,the accusations have the potential to seriously damage his standing among evangelicals and social conservatives who are the bedrock of his support.
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