For those of you who haven’t had time to research the details of the recent brouhaha between Ben Carson and Ted Cruz, here’s a quick rundown of the facts.
- Monday, February 1 – Carson’s campaign announced that he would be delivering his post-caucus speech before the caucus results came in and then would immediately fly not to New Hampshire but rather to his home in Florida. This is how campaigns usually signal their candidate is about to drop out of the race.
- Monday, February 1, 6:29 p.m. – Marco Rubio supporter Conrad Close tweeted, “Rubio campaign pushing the narrative hard that Carson is dropping out. Obviously looking to pick up votes from Carson.”
- Monday, February 1, 6:43 to 44 p.m. – CNN went on the air with the report Carson was flying to Florida immediately after the caucuses and thereafter would not be going to New Hampshire or South Carolina to campaign but rather would be attending the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, February 4.
- Monday, February 1, 6:43 p.m. – Simultaneously with the start of CNN’s broadcast announcement that Carson was going home, CNN reporter Chris Moody tweeted Carson’s campaign was now stating he would remain in the race after the caucuses.
- Monday, February 1, 6:44 to 6:57 p.m. – Carson became “furious” at the report he was dropping out of the race and talked to his business manager Armstrong Williams and possibly other staffers, ordering them to quash the rumor. He retweeted a staffer’s tweets stating he was staying in the race.
- Monday, February 1, 6:57 p.m. – Time reporter Tessa Berenson tweeted, “Im with Carson now, “I’m going home to get some fresh clothes,” he says.”
- Monday, February 1, 6:58 p.m. – PBS reporter Lisa Desjardin tweeted Carson was not dropping out of the race but returning to Florida “to get more clothes.”
- Monday, February 1, 6:59 p.m. – Washington Post reporter Bob Costa tweeted he had just received a call from Armstrong Williams notifying him Carson was not dropping out.
- Monday, February 1, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. – During the course of speeches as part of the caucus procedure, one or more Cruz precinct captains may have stated Carson was going home after the caucuses and possibly also that he might be about to drop out of the race. The details are disputed.
- Monday, February 1, 7:20 – While the caucuses were in session, Cruz supporter Iowa Congressman Steve King tweeted, “Carson looks like he is out. Iowans need to know before they vote.”
- Monday, February 1, 8:28 p.m. – While the caucuses continued, MSNBC reporter Benjy Sarlin tweeted an official statement from Carson’s communications director stating Carson was not dropping out of the race but rather returning to Florida to “get a fresh set of clothes.”
- Monday, February 1, 8:49 p.m. – Tessa Berenson tweeted that Ben Carson was accusing Cruz’s campaign of dirty tricks for stating it looked as if Carson might be leaving the race.
- Tuesday, February 2 – Ted Cruz apologized to Carson for the mistake, adding, “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 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.”
- Tuesday, February 2 – Carson responded to Cruz’s apology by stating, “As a Christian I will accept the apology.” However, as a presidential candidate he apparently did not accept it, for he went on to repeat his demand that one or more Cruz staffers be fired.
- February 1-3 – News organizations continued to express amazement at Carson’s decision to take a break from the campaign in order to go home and get more clothes, something that is unprecedented among presidential candidates during active campaigns.
Summary: Whether deliberately or by mistake Carson’s campaign released a statement that would normally be taken as indicating he would soon be withdrawing from the race. The timing of the statement was such that it appeared in broadcast news minutes before the start of the caucuses. After hearing the report on CNN, Carson ordered his campaign to correct it, creating two hours of confusion during which contradictory tweets flew in all directions. This confusion coincided with the time the Iowa caucuses were in session. Afterward, in frustration at his own campaign’s mistake, Carson accused Cruz of dirty tricks. Cruz generously apologized for the misunderstanding. Carson less generously continued to demand the firing of Cruz staffers.