Part 2 is here.
Dr. Ben Carson calls it "dirty tricks," "blatant lying" and wants someone fired. Donald Trump calls it fraud, a stolen victory, and wants a redo. Ted Cruz calls it a "mistake" and clearly hopes to move on, as they say, after apologizing to Carson.
What is "it"? The false rumor that Carson was suspending his presidential campaign which Cruz campaign people used to urge Carson supporters to support Cruz on caucus night in Iowa.
Evidence includes the email (image above) that CNN, Huffington Post, the Daily Mail and other media outlets have reported that the Cruz campaign sent to Iowa precinct captains.
As super op Karl Rove explained it, there are 1500 precincts in Iowa. If only 4 Carson voters per precinct decide to vote for Cruz, Cruz wins.
Where did the rumor come from in the first place?
Cruz supporters say it came from CNN. It seems more accurate to say the Cruz campaign took CNN reporting about Carson's immediate, post-Iowa itinerary and, in effect, turned it into a political weapon to use during the whole night of caucusing -- despite numerous real-time corrections from a CNN correspondent, plus protests from the Carson campaign on Twitter (reproduced below).
As Ted Cruz notes in his February 2 apology to Carson, at no time on the night of February 1 did the Cruz campaign correct the rumor -- not even after the Carson campaign issued a written statement.
Cruz put it this way:
Last night when our political team saw the CNN post saying that Dr. Carson was not carrying on to New Hampshire and South Carolina, our campaign updated grassroots leaders just as we would with any breaking news story. That’s fair game.
What CNN reported (breathlessly) was that Carson was not, to use Cruz's phrase, carrying on directly. If anyone, from Cruz national campaign co-chairman Rep. Steve King on down, had done the responsible thing and checked with the Carson campaign (or just scanned Carson campaign Twitter accounts), such a "story" never would have been "fair game" in the first place.
The rest of the Cruz apology went like this:
What the team then should have done was send around the follow-up statement from the Carson campaign clarifying that he was indeed staying in the race when that came out.
This was a mistake from our end, and for that I apologize to Dr. Carson.
"Mistake"? Even without casting any aspersions, this was an error of great and destructive magnitude.
NB: Before beginning my Twitter tick tock below, I should note that on his radio show, Rush Limbaugh discussed a tweet by a Rubio supporter named Conrad Close, time stamped here at 6:29 pm. The tweet says: "Rubio campaign pushing the narrative hard that Carson is dropping out. Obviously looking to pick up votes from Carson."
Because Close deleted his tweet, I am not able now to determine with certainty when it originated according to Central Time. However, since CNN didn't break the Carson itinerary story until 6:43pm CT, my best guess is that Conrad Close's tweet followed the CNN story, in my view most likely at 7:29 pm CT, not 6:29 pm CT.
The following tick-tock, which is based entirely on my own Twitter account time stamps, includes what seem to be the most relevant data points of this often-garbled caucus story.
To arrive at Central Time in Iowa, I am adding two hours to my own Twitter setting, which is on Pacific Time.
6:43 pm CT CNN's senior digital correspondent Chris Moody sends out two tweets in succession.
6:43 pm CT
6:46 pm CT CNN's chief Washington correspondent Jake Tapper tweets the news of Moody's first of two tweets.
6:53 pm CT Carson campaign senior communications strategist Jason Osborne tweets:
7:00 pm CT The Iowa Caucus begins.
7:05 pm CT Carson campaign senior communications strategist Jason Osborne tweets:
Note: Sometime between 7:05 pm CT and 7:22 pm CT, @realBenCarson retweeted the "not suspending, back Wednesday" (above) message to his 1.12 million Twitter followers.
7:07 pm CT Fox News radio commentator Todd Starnes (whom I include as a "control" for this experiment) appears to have quickly doublechecked the story for himself:
7:08 pm CT @CNN further dumbs down the first of digital correspondent Moody's two tweets.
7:12 pm CT Fox's Starnes continues to correct:
In short, the accurate story is out there for anyone who wants to, or should be checking it.
Enter Rep. Steve King (R-IA), Ted Cruz's National Campaign Co-Chairman.
7:19 pm CT Rep. Steve King tweets:
Skipping? The equivalent of suspending? It seems clear that it is King who jumped to the wrong conclusion, right over Moody's second (staying in "no matter what") tweet.
7:20 pm CT Then he hits the ground running.
Looks like he's out? Iowans need to know before they vote? Sounds much like the kernel of the email reportedly sent to Iowa precinct captains (at the top).
7:25 pm CT Carson senior communications strategist Osborne tweets CNN again:
7:30 pm CT CNN's Moody appears to respond by tweeting:
8:05 pm CT CNN's Moody tweets again:
8:32 pm CT Last CNN gasp for the night.
Came the dawn ... February 2.
2:09 pm CT
King links to this CNN interview (see tweet above, 7:08 pm CT) in which Tapper and another CNN correspondent enthuse over Moody's first tweet, emphasizing how "unusual" it is for Carson to go home, rather than on to New Hampshire or South Carolina, with the gal adding that "no one who wants the presidency" or some such would do such a thing.
Then again, one thing Carson's candidacy has been is unusual. For the Cruz campaign, this was the moment for accuracy and doing the right thing; not gotcha politics. There is something profoundly wrong with grabbing for the other guy's supporters on the basis on unconfirmed, even unspoken subtext. If CNN's on-air reporting created doubt, it was up to the Cruz campaign -- starting with Rep. King -- to resolve it. And it would have been so easy -- a phone call, a text, a Twitter search. It would have been done, and clean. And the victory, assuming it was to be, would have been clean, too.