By Mike Lillis
The heated debate over "New York values" intensified on the presidential trail Sunday, with leading GOP candidates battling over the accuracy and meaning of the divisive phrase.
"That formulation didn't come from me. It came from Donald Trump," Cruz said on the "Fox News Sunday" program, referring to a 1999 interview with the late NBC newsman Tim Russert.
"He explained in his views that he was pro-choice, he supported partial birth abortion, open to gay marriage, and [as] his explanation for all that, he said, 'I'm a New Yorker, I'm from Manhattan. Those are the views of New York. Those are what New York values are, they're not Iowa values, but that's New York values.'"
Cruz's comments have led to furious rebuttals from some leading Republicans, including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who are quick to note that Cruz has brought in millions of dollars for his campaign from New York donors.
Those dynamics have not been overlooked by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), another GOP presidential hopeful, who charged Cruz with dividing the country simply to boost his campaign.
"I've never used that phrase. I think we're all Americans," Rubio said on NBC's "Meet the Press" program. "I'm campaigning on behalf of American values, and I don't think to divide people against each other –– that's the problem we have with our current president.
"I think the bigger problem is Ted has raised a lot of money out of New York," Rubio added.
Cruz has been unapologetic. The Texas senator suggested Sunday that any controversy over his comments has been manufactured by "the media elite in New York and D.C. [who] run around with their hair on fire wondering what on earth are New York values."
"People understand exactly what that is," he said. "In South Carolina when I was there, the people there certainly understand it."