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Ted Cruz is Trying to Change His Campaign's Shady Reputation

Cruz said his campaign will conduct itself with "the highest integrity" after firing his spokesperson for spreading a misleading video about Marco Rubio.
Photo by Mike Nelson/EPA

Sen. Ted Cruz's campaign likes to remind voters how much they can trust him with massive banner at most of his campaign events emblazoned with the word TrusTED. But despite these efforts, Cruz's campaign has developed an unsavory reputation for using "dirty tricks" against his rivals, an association he is now taking more drastic steps to combat.

Cruz fired his top spokesman, Rick Tyler, on Monday for just that reason. Tyler had posted a misleading story online suggesting that Rubio had disparaged a Cruz staffer for reading the Bible in a South Carolina hotel. Tyler had spread around the transcript of a video, originally reported by the Daily Pennsylvanian, that quoted Rubio telling the Cruz staffer that the Bible did "not have many answers in it."


This turned out to be an inaccurate transcription of Rubio's remarks, according to the bewildered Cruz staffer, which the site then corrected. Tyler posted it on Facebook on Sunday but later deleted it and apologized.

Rubio and his campaign immediately jumped on the story, accusing the Cruz campaign of more "dirty tricks" as the Republican candidates head into tonight's caucus in Nevada.

But Cruz was quick in his response, telling reporters in Nevada on Monday evening that he had asked for Tyler's resignation.

"Our campaign should not have sent it. That's why I've asked for Rick Tyler's resignation," Cruz said. "I have made clear in this campaign that we will conduct this campaign with the very highest standards of integrity."

"Even if it was true, we are not a campaign that is going to question the faith of another candidate," Cruz added. "Even if it was true, our campaign should not have sent it."

Photo via EPA/Mike Nelson

Cruz's nod toward integrity comes after his campaign has repeatedly been accused of using questionable tactics to sway voters in the early primary states. In Iowa, Cruz's campaign caught heat for sending an email to its volunteers on caucus night (incorrectly) telling them that Ben Carson was dropping out and encouraging caucusgoers to move over to their side. The claws really came out in South Carolina, where Cruz's campaign spread around a photoshopped image of Marco Rubio shaking hands with Obama to highlight his deal-making on immigration.


Related: 'Dirty Tricks' in South Carolina: Pro-Cruz Robocall Hits Trump Over Confederate Flag

The Rubio campaign responded to Cruz's activities in South Carolina by sending out an email to their supporters warning them to be on the lookout for any dirty tricks.

"Over the last 10 days, the Cruz campaign has lied, smeared, fabricated and even photoshopped," Rubio's spokesperson Alex Conant said in the email the night before the South Carolina primary. "We fear the worst dirty tricks are yet to come. We strongly urge all South Carolina Republicans to beware of suspicious news reports, emails and social media posts during tomorrow's voting."

On Monday, Conant posted on Twitter that the video from the hotel lobby was another of Cruz's "dirty tricks".

This video has correct transcript; any other is another dirty trick by Cruz camp. How do I know? I'm in the video!! — Alex Conant (@AlexConant)February 21, 2016

Tyler has been a fixture on cable news as the face of Team Cruz and his forced resignation will raise questions about the overall health of Cruz's campaign going forward. His firing happened just 24 hours before Tuesday's Nevada Caucuses, in which Cruz is currently polling in second place behind Donald Trump and ahead of Rubio.

This isn't Tyler's first rodeo. He's a veteran campaign hand who joined Cruz's campaign after working to elect Newt Gingrich in 2012. Tyler initially served as a spokesman for Gingrich, but resigned in a mass staff exodus six months before the Iowa Caucuses amid missteps by Gingrich and concerns that he wasn't taking the race seriously. Tyler later apologized to Gingrich and went to work as a senior adviser to the super PAC supporting him that cycle.

Tyler did not respond to a request for comment from VICE News.

Follow Olivia Becker on Twitter: @obecker928