BACKFIRE

Cruz, Carson Held Secret Meeting About Dirty Tricks in a Closet

Ted Cruz called a private meeting with the former neurosurgeon in South Carolina on Thursday night, the Carson campaign told The Daily Beast. It did not go as planned.

02.19.16 9:10 PM ET

Two grown men running for president met in a storage closet last night.

The meeting, called by Ted Cruz in an attempt to mend fences with Ben Carson ahead of the South Carolina primary, was held on Thursday night before the Conservative Review convention. The two huddled in the unusual venue for nearly 20 to 25 minutes, as Carson’s Secret Service detail stood outside, according to a Republican operative who witnessed the strange scene.

Carson, whose campaign has spent the weeks after Iowa blasting Cruz for lying to voters in the Hawkeye State, agreed to meet him for five minutes, according to a source close to Carson’s campaign, to try to put to bed the issue of his dirty campaign tricks in Iowa, during which Cruz’s campaign told caucus-goers that Carson had dropped out of the race.

Carson’s campaign confirmed the meeting—which was was supposed to be short and off-the-record—and blamed the Cruz campaign for leaking the fact that it occurred in an attempt to rectify his public image.

Given previous opportunities to accept responsibility for his actions, Cruz blamed a report from CNN, alleging that it misled his campaign into thinking that the former neurosurgeon was no longer in the presidential contest. In the weeks after the Iowa caucus, the 2016 Committee, a PAC affiliated with Carson, has spent a great deal of time fundraising off of Cruz’s lie.

Cruz has been under fire since Iowa from Donald Trump, Carson, and now Marco Rubio for what they call dirty campaign tricks. Most recently the Rubio campaign slammed Cruz for a ridiculous photoshopped image that depicted Marco Rubio shaking (left) hands with President Obama.

“We weren’t going to comment to the press on it, but it seems pretty clear that the other party involved had a different agenda,” Jason Osborne, senior communications strategist for Carson’s campaign, told The Daily Beast. “How else could we perceive that to be?”

He said that he was informed late about the meeting and didn’t have time to prepare Carson at all. It “did not go well.”

The meeting, which took place in a storage closet across from a bathroom at the convention center on Thursday, ended with Carson saying “we agree to disagree.”

“We disagree on accountability and culpability,” is how Carson put it, according to Osborne.

A Republican operative told The Daily Beast that the Cruz campaign wanted to have the conversation on “neutral ground,” so they would not allow for it to take place in Carson’s green room, which was right next to Cruz’s.

Reporters were allegedly already calling the Carson campaign as the meeting was going on, with the two full-grown men in a closet that allegedly had no chairs, which indicates that someone leaked details in advance of The Daily Beast being informed about the meeting.

Secret Service members were guarding the door and simply said to a Republican operative in the hallway: “Yeah, they’re in that closet.”

It is unclear if there were lights inside of it.

The conversation lasted so long that it bled into Carson’s speaking time at the convention, leaving members of his campaign having to knock on the door to get him ready.

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After Carson spoke at the convention, and saw Cruz in the hallway again, Cruz didn’t even look at Carson, according to the latter’s campaign.

“There was a political play there and it didn’t work for them,” a Republican operative close to the campaign told The Daily Beast. “The meeting didn’t go as well as Cruz wanted it to go. Carson had a smile on his face and was looking right at him.”

When reached for comment, Rick Tyler, a spokesman for Cruz’s campaign, said, “Yes, they had a good visit.”