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Trump Blames Cruz for Ads Featuring Nude Melania, Threatens to 'Spill the Beans' on Cruz's Wife

Trump tussled with Cruz over an outside group's ad featuring a nude photo of his wife on Twitter Tuesday night.
Photo de Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

An advertisement in Utah featuring a nude photo of Donald Trump's wife, Melania, has sparked a feud between the Republican frontrunner and Senator Ted Cruz.

As Utah's citizens were caucusing on Tuesday night, Trump tweeted out a rebuke of the ad, which features a photo of Melania lying naked on a fur blanket on Trump's Boeing 727 private jet, introducing voters to "your next First Lady" and instead encouraging them to support Cruz. The photo was taken from a GQ photo shoot with Melania in 2000, when she was Trump's girlfriend.

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Trump blamed "Lyin' Ted" for the advertisement in his tweet on Tuesday and then threatened to "spill the beans" on the senator's wife, Heidi.

Lyin' Ted Cruz just used a picture of Melania from a G.Q. shoot in his ad. Be careful, Lyin' Ted, or I will spill the beans on your wife!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)March 23, 2016

Trump never specified what he meant by "spill[ing] the beans" on Heidi Cruz. Mrs. Cruz is an investment banker with an MBA from Harvard University who overcame depression earlier in life. She has increasingly spent more time on the campaign trail both alongside her husband and solo, as one of his top surrogates.

Related: Jeb Bush Endorses Ted Cruz to Thwart 'Divisiveness and Vulgarity' of Donald Trump

The Melania Trump ad was not affiliated with the Cruz campaign, as the senator pointed out in a tweet of his own on Tuesday night, calling Trump both "a coward" and "classless" for threatening to go after his wife.

Pic of your wife not from us. Donald, if you try to attack Heidi, you're more of a coward than I thought. — Ted Cruz (@tedcruz)March 23, 2016

In fact, the ad was one of three social media advertisements promoted in Arizona and Utah by Make America Awesome, an outside group that is part of the "Never Trump" campaign. Republican strategist Liz Mair, who previously worked for Governors Rick Perry and Scott Walker among others, founded the group last year and has been running ads to try to prevent Trump from becoming the party's nominee.

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Mair's group ran three ads on social media in Arizona and Utah targeting Mormon voters ahead of Tuesday's primaries. Cruz won Utah, as expected, but by more than 50 points and Trump defeated Cruz in Arizona by more than 20 points.

The Melania ad specifically targeted Mormon women and has been criticized by commentators on both sides of the political spectrum for focusing on Mrs. Trump and featuring a nude photo. Several described the ad as "slut-shaming".

As Vox's Emily Crockett wrote this week: "Melania Trump studied architecture and design at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia before becoming a successful fashion model. She speaks five languages fluently and has her own jewelry and cosmetics lines. Barbara Walters, after interviewing her, said, "Maybe because she's so beautiful, we don't expect her to be as smart as she is."

"But people who see this ad might not know any of that, and might be inclined to judge Melania Trump negatively because of how she's portrayed."

Related: Ted Cruz Scores Major Win Over Donald Trump in Utah Caucuses

But Mair defended the ad, while objecting to the use of the term (which she wrote as "sl-t" and said was offensive) in an email. The ad was intended not to highlight Melania Trump's nudity, Mair argued, but the "female subservience" and "porn-lite imagery" represented in the shot, in which Mrs. Trump is handcuffed to a brief case.

"Maybe he shouldn't have made Megyn Kelly's (totally unobjectionable) photos an issue months back, which he did," Mair wrote in a separate missive.

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Mair has received several threats online since Trump made an issue of the ad last night, she said. The initial ad had very few resources behind it, but it has received a lot of attention after a few news outlets wrote about it and now that Trump himself has highlighted its existence. Mair said that she intends to press charges.

"I'm not sure which 1930's European country Trump's supporters think they're living in, but in America, it is not acceptable to respond to three-figure-spend political ads you don't like by harassing the ad-maker and her family and threatening violence," Mair said in a statement Wednesday morning.

Despite the threats, the strategist doesn't seem to be backing down.

"I'm now reconsidering my decision to hold off on running two other ads that make this one look like a hyper-sanitized Bible story, mostly just for fun and to see if Trump will have an actual, full-on aneurysm," Mair said in an email.

Donald Trump Wins Arizona Primary, Adding to Delegate Lead

Follow Sarah Mimms on Twitter: @SarahMMimms