Election 2016

Of All the Reasons Ted Cruz Shouldn’t Be President, Infidelity Alone Shouldn’t be One of Them

Cruz is the worst! But attacks on his private life also contribute to a toxic culture around sex and privacy.

Photo Credit: FlickR

I understand the allure of the possible revelation that a world class stone thrower also abides in a glass house. But of all the reasons to be outraged about Ted Cruz, of all the nyah nyah nyah reasons to pick the guy apart, Friday’s explosive claims that the Republican presidential candidate has repeatedly cheated on his wife seem to be wildly missing the point. If you want to take a political candidate down, can it please, in 2016, not be over his private consensual adult sexual behavior?

The National Enquirer — the tabloid that six years ago effectively torpedoed John Edwards’ political career by exposing that he’d had a child with his former campaign videographer Rielle Hunter — claims this week that “Private detectives are digging into at least five affairs Ted Cruz supposedly had.” Among Cruz’s alleged conquests are “a foxy political consultant and a high-placed D.C. attorney.… and even a wild sex worker.” The story features pixelated images of five women it says engaged in “romps that will destroy Ted Cruz!”

The story, especially coming at the end of a week in which Donald Trump pointedly threatened to “spill the beans” about Cruz’s wife Heidi — and then escalated to a retweeted snipe about Mrs. Cruz’s appearance — is intriguingly timed, to say the least. As the conservative blog The Last Refuge points out, “There is more than a strong probability each of the outlined group (pictured) was contacted prior to publication; and one of those is very close to the Donald Trump campaign.”

Since then, naturally, social media detectives have been going bonkers trying to identify the women — one of whose cloaked image looks a lot like Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson, who today liked a tweet referencing the insinuations. And just Thursday, Pierson appeared on CNN to defend Trump’s behavior toward Heidi Cruz, saying she wasn’t offended by it because “I’m one of those women that doesn’t need validation from outside sources.” Two of the other women are speculated to be known in conservative circles, too — one as a former Carly Fiorina staffer and one as former Cruz communications staffer. One of them is married.

In Beltway politics, sex isn’t always just about sex. The Enquirer story would seem to imply that a Trump staffer, one whose job it is to discredit Cruz, has been intimate with him. (On Friday, Pierson cryptically liked a tweet from a follower who said, “I know the NE story is Bulls__t, This member of the #TrumpTrain does not care about ur past. But is very proud of ur future.”) And the possibility that Cruz had a tryst with a Fiorina staffer does throw into new light the puzzling move by Cruz’s super PAC Keep the Promise 1 last year to give half a million dollars to Fiorina’s campaign. But Crooks and Liars’ Karoli Kuns is still skeptical of the whole story, calling it extremely “conveeeeeeenient” and noting, “It feels to me like Trump dropped a whole lot of garbage over at the Enquirer to discredit Ted Cruz, and that sense is backed up even more by the fact that one of the lovely ladies is supposedly Donald Trump’s spokeswoman. Still, it certainly seems to have lit up the right wing blogosphere a bit, particularly those who reside in the Trump camp.”

And by the way, if you’re chortling over Cruz’s reputed indiscretions, just remember that the leading Republican candidate is a man whose first marriage ended in a contentious divorce after he had a notoriously well publicized affair with a woman nearly two decades his junior.

So is this a case of yet another family values conservative who lives by a different set of rules in his private life? Or is it just incredibly an dirty political game? And of all the reasons that Cruz shouldn’t be president, is an accusation that he slept with other women really the one he ought to go down for? As of Friday morning, Cruz has yet to comment on the National Enquirer. But earlier this week he tweeted to Donald Trump, “Heidi is the love of my life.”

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream." Follow her on Twitter: @embeedub.            

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