(CNN) — Ted Cruz is accusing Donald Trump and his “henchmen” of smearing him with a salacious tabloid story, which the Texas senator called “garbage” and “complete and utter lies.”
“Let me be clear, this National Enquirer story is garbage. It is complete and utter lies. It is a tabloid smear, and it is a smear from Donald Trump and his henchmen,” Cruz said Friday, adding that he believes Trump “directed these attacks.”
CNN has no reporting to suggest that the tabloid allegations are true or that Trump or any of his advisers are behind the story, which was published this week.
Trump, in a statement released by his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, said he had no involvement with the story.
“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,” Trump said. “I have nothing to do with the National Enquirer, and unlike lyin’ Ted Cruz, I do not surround myself with political hacks and henchman and then pretend total innocence. Ted Cruz’s problem with the National Enquirer is his and his alone, and while they were right about O.J. Simpson, John Edwards, and many others, I certainly hope they are not right about lyin’ Ted Cruz. I look forward to spending the week in Wisconsin, winning the Republican nomination and ultimately the Presidency in order to make America great again.”
Cruz alleged that Trump’s campaign pushed the allegations in the National Enquirer story through Trump’s former top political adviser, Roger Stone.
Stone and Trump publicly split ways this summer following disagreements over the campaign’s strategy, the two said this summer.
Stone declined to comment to CNN on Friday.
Cruz noted that Stone is quoted on the record in the National Enquirer article and said Stone “is a man with 50 years of dirty tricks behind him.”
The Texas senator also suggested that Trump’s friendship with the David Pecker, the CEO of the National Enquirer’s parent company American Media Inc., made “the venue” for the allegations against him “not surprising.”
An American Media spokesperson said in a statement to CNN that “no one influences” the tabloid magazine’s reporting “other than our own reporters and editors.”
“We stand by the integrity of our coverage and remain committed to our aggressive reporting on such an important topic,” the spokesperson said in an email.
The National Enquirer endorsed Trump earlier this month with the headline “Trump Must Be President,” a fact Cruz highlighted Friday as he slammed the tabloid and Trump.
“Donald, when he’s losing, when he’s scared, decides to pedal sleaze and slime,” Cruz told reporters Friday.
Cruz added in a Facebook post later Friday that the “smears” are “offensive to Heidi and me, they’re offensive to our daughters, and they’re offensive to everyone Donald continues to personally attack.”
“Donald Trump’s consistently disgraceful behavior is beneath the office we are seeking and we are not going to follow,” he wrote on Facebook.
Later Friday afternoon, Trump retweeted a Twitter user who said, “#LyingTed blames @realDonaldTrump for so many things I am starting to think he is having a mental health crisis.”
The exchange on Friday is the latest salvo in the increasingly personal battle between Cruz and Trump.
On Tuesday, Trump inserted Cruz’s wife, Heidi, into the race with a tweet that the Texas senator should “be careful” or he would “spill the beans on your wife.” That was a response to a Facebook advertisement targeted to Mormons that shows Trump’s wife, Melania, posing nude — an ad was produced by an anti-Trump super PAC, Make America Awesome, which has no known connection to the Cruz campaign.
Trump then followed that up with a retweet on Wednesday night seemingly digging at Heidi Cruz’s physical appearance. Cruz reamed Trump for that tweet Thursday and urged Trump to “leave Heidi the hell alone.”
“Most of the things that Donald Trump says have no basis in reality. So we are not worried in the least,” Heidi Cruz told reporters earlier this week.