Ben Carson said late Saturday that Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas approached him during an off-camera break at ABC’s Republican debate to apologize for his campaign’s conduct during the Iowa caucuses and requested a one-on-one meeting with him.
“He said he’s sorry that this happened and he wants to sit down and talk,” Carson said in an interview with The Washington Post. “He wants to discuss the whole thing and clear the air.”
The retired neurosurgeon said he mostly listened when his Republican rival approached him on stage but did agree to hear Cruz out in the coming days. They did not set a date.
“To be determined,” Carson said when asked where they may meet. “Doesn’t matter.”
Cruz’s conversation with Carson and his appeal for a private get-together is the latest turn in the ongoing drama between their campaigns since the caucuses, when Cruz’s supporters spread false reports that Carson was dropping out of the 2016 race.
While Cruz has apologized for those efforts since he won Iowa, Carson and other candidates, such as Donald Trump, have continued to raise questions about the legitimacy of his victory.
Cruz advisers did not respond Sunday to questions about the exchange.
In the interview, Carson said pointedly that if the meeting with Cruz is scheduled, that does not mean that the senator will be absolved.
“The evidence is there,” he said, citing voice-mails that his campaign has released of Cruz allies telling caucus-goers that Carson was likely to suspend his bid. “Tapes, written communications, it’s all out there. People have to decide whether this kind of behavior is acceptable to them.”
“I’ll tell you what it tells me,” Carson added. “It tells me a lot about character.”
During the debate, Cruz was conciliatory in his remarks about the episode but also highly defensive of his campaign, which he said was led astray by CNN and its reporting on Carson.
“Ben is a good and honorable man, and Ben and Candy have become friends. He has an amazing life story that has inspired millions, including me,” Cruz began. “When this transpired, I apologized to him then, and I do so now. Ben, I’m sorry.”
CNN responded forcefully to Cruz on Saturday, calling the senator’s characterization of its coverage “categorically false.”
“The Cruz campaign's actions the night of the Iowa caucuses had nothing to do with CNN's reporting. The fact that Senator Cruz continues to knowingly mislead the voters about this is astonishing,” the network said in a statement.