Ted CruzTed CruzSenate passes dozens of bills on way out of town Senate passes stopgap funding bill, averting shutdown Senate advances funding measure, avoiding shutdown MORE on Friday blamed Donald TrumpDonald TrumpSecond Dem calls for probe into Russian election involvement Trump picks Exxon CEO Tillerson for secretary of State: report GOP senator: Russian hacking 'hardly news' MORE for an article in the National Enquirer claiming he has had multiple extramarital affairs.
“It is garbage, complete and utter lies,” the White House hopeful said to reporters in Wisconsin. “It is a tabloid smear, and it has come from Donald Trump and his henchmen.”
Trump in a written statement denied having anything to do with the Enquirer report.
"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 no know about it, and have not, as yet, read it.
"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."
The Enquirer endorsed Trump for president earlier this year, according to the Daily Beast, declaring that he “must be prez” on its cover. The issue included an article giving 10 reasons why Trump is the “only choice for the White House.”
Trump has also penned pieces in the Enquirer, the Daily Beast reported, and tweeted favorably about David Pecker, the CEO of the media conglomerate that owns the tabloid.
While denying involvement in the Enquirer story, the businessman in his statement Friday suggested the tabloid's reporting has sometimes been on target.
"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 that they are not right about Lyin’ Ted Cruz," Trump wrote.
Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson, meanwhile, responded to claims she’s one of the mystery women mentioned in the Enquirer article, calling the situation “stupidity on all levels” on Twitter.
“Of course the National Enquirer story is 100 % FALSE!!!,” Pierson tweeted. “I only speak to myself, however.”
The article about Cruz, released Friday, is further inflaming the bitter battle for the Republican nomination.
The feud has ensnared the spouses of the candidates this week, with the Trump campaign attacking Cruz’s wife, Heidi, over an ad featuring Melania Trump in the nude. Cruz’s campaign says it had nothing to do with the ad.
Trump intensified the attacks Wednesday by sharing a tweet that compared his wife, a former model, to Cruz’s wife, with the caption “a picture is worth a thousand words.”
Cruz angrily slammed the billionaire Thursday for dragging his wife into the campaign.
“Donald, you’re a sniveling coward. Leave Heidi the hell alone,” Cruz said.
Pierson amplified the attacks on Heidi Cruz Friday.
"She is a Bush operative; she worked for the architect of NAFTA, which has killed millions of jobs in this country; she was a member on the Council on Foreign Relations who — in Sen. Cruz's own words, called a nest of snakes that seeks to undermine national sovereignty," Pierson said in an interview with MSNBC's Steve Kornacki.
"Her entire career has been spent working against everything Ted Cruz says that he stands for," she added.
Alice Stewart, a spokeswoman for Cruz, responded to Pierson's remarks in a statement to The Hill, saying, "There's no low the Trump campaign won't go."
Amid the furor, Cruz appeared to soften Friday on his pledge to support Trump if he’s the Republican Party’s presidential nominee.
“I don’t make a habit out of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my family,” Cruz said.
“Donald Trump is not going to be the Republican nominee.”
Cruz and the rest of the GOP presidential field has repeatedly pledged to support the party’s nominee, no matter who it is.
The next big contest in the Republican race is the Wisconsin primary, which will be held on April 5. Polls show a close race between Trump and Cruz in the state.
- This story was updated at 3 p.m.