SLEAZY DOES IT

03.25.16 8:45 PM ET

Ted Cruz ‘Affair’ Rumors Peddled by Marco Rubio’s Allies

The senator accused Donald Trump of planting a National Enquirer sex scandal story. If that’s true, Trump wasn’t the only Cruz opponent trying to traffic in smears.

If you enjoy daydreaming about Ted Cruz’s sex life, then today is your lucky day.

The National Enquirer alleged on March 23 that the senator has had five extramarital affairs. And the descriptions it provided of the women—along with barely-pixelated headshots of them—left little to D.C. insiders’ imaginations as to who the Enquirer had accused of being Cruz paramours.

“A HOOKER, A TEACHER & COWORKERS: 5 romps that will destroy Ted Cruz!” the Enquirer piece boldly claims, in an article that includes a wild “sex-in-closet” allegation.

Cruz fired back on Friday, charging that the piece was baseless and that the Enquirer was taking its marching orders straight from “Donald Trump and his henchmen.”

The truth behind the rumor-mongering, however, is a little more complex. A half-dozen GOP operatives and media figures tell The Daily Beast that Cruz’s opponents have been pushing charges of adultery for at least six months now—and that allies of former GOP presidential hopeful Marco Rubio were involved in spreading the smears.

For months and months, anti-Cruz operatives have pitched a variety of #CruzSexScandal stories to a host of prominent national publications, according to Republican operatives and media figures. The New York Times, The Washington Post, Bloomberg News, Politico, and ABC News—reporters at all those outlets heard some version of the Cruz-is-cheating story. None of them decided to run with rumors. Those publications’ representatives all declined to provide on-the-record comments when The Daily Beast reached out for this article.

Breitbart News, the notoriously Trump-friendly conservative outlet, was also pitched the story of Cruz’s extramarital affairs, according to a source close to the publication. That source said an operative allied with Marco Rubio—but not associated with his official campaign—showed the publication a compilation video of Cruz and a woman other than his wife coming out of the Capitol Grille restaurant and a hotel on Tuesdays and Thursdays. But the outlet opted not to report on the video, which demonstrated no direct evidence of an affair.

“We got it from a Rubio ally,” said the source. “It was too thin, so [Breitbart’s Washington political editor Matt Boyle] decided not to run it. There was no way to verify the claims.”

A Rubio spokesman wasn’t immediately available for comment.

The Cruz campaign team has been aware of the sex-scandal rumors for months. But it took the National Enquirer’s report to force the story into the mainstream media conversation.

Friday afternoon, Trump disavowed any connection to the Enquirer’s story—while giving their credibility a backhanded boost.

“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,” he said in a statement.

He then proceeded to praise the publication.

“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,” he said.

National Enquirer interior pages, accusing Ted Cruz of five extra-marital affairs.

The Daily Beast

You can’t blame Cruz for seeing Trump’s tiny fingerprints on the story—and it’s fully plausible that the mogul or one of his allies (rather than a Rubio booster) gave the story to the tabloid. After all, the supermarket tabloid is, for all intents and purposes, the Trump Train’s caboose.

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TRUMP MUST BE PREZ!” began the Enquirer’s endorsement of the mogul, published earlier this month. “INSIDE: VOTE FOR HIS VICE PRESIDENT!” (One of the options is Sen. Cruz, who the publication had previously dubbed, “Boozin’ Ted.”)

In that same issue, the editors call Marco Rubio “NERDY.” The issue, dated March 14, 2016, also features bombshell exposes on the Illuminati taking control of Hollywood to erect a “totalitarian world government,” as well as Dr. Phil’s “REIGN OF TERROR.”

David Pecker—the CEO of American Media, Inc., which publishes the Enquirer—is tight with Trump.

Trump has repeatedly praised Pecker and tweeted several times in 2013 that his pal should be named the new CEO of Time magazine.

The tabloid has provided Trump’s presidential bid with glowing coverage, and has been rewarded with “exclusive” interviews. In January, “America’s most popular presidential candidate” gave a two-part interview on the “most intimate details of [his] amazing life!” Trump is even an occasional National Enquirer contributor.

“Trump is a big friend of Pecker,” an anonymous source told the New York Daily News, claiming that the billionaire reality TV star is “protected” by the Enquirer. “So no John Edwards-type investigations… Some of the staff are furious. Trump’s such fertile ground, and it drives them crazy to not only be staying away from it, but running puff pieces for him.”

A source close to the tabloid also told New York magazine in October that Trump’s campaign was the source for an Enquirer cover story on one of the mogul’s former rivals.

“Bungling Surgeon Ben Carson Left Sponge in Patient’s Brain!” the headline bellowed. (The Trump campaign and Pecker flatly denied this allegation.)

The Enquirer has also savaged other Trump foes, including Rubio, Cruz, Carly Fiorina, and Jeb Bush. It recently reported that Bush, as governor of Florida, was embroiled in “sleazy cheating scandals… [with a] Playboy Bunny turned lawyer,” a rumor Bush publicly denied over a decade ago.

“There have been few presidential candidates in recent history that have generated the kind of discussion that Donald Trump has,” Pecker told The Daily Beast this month. “It’s no surprise that the readership of the Enquirer recently told us that they wanted to read more about Trump than any other 2016 candidate. The coverage of the Enquirer reflects what its 6 million readers want, and expect, from the publication which has shown no hesitation in presenting an unvarnished look at past or current candidates for president.”

But unvarnished isn’t the same thing as true. Cruz and several of the women accused in the Enquirer’s story have denied its lurid claims.