Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas both took aim at the New York Times during a debate in North Charleston, S.C. (Rainier Ehrhardt/AP)

Republicans love when their candidates rip the media — especially the New York Times. In fact, two of the top applause lines in Thursday’s GOP debate were dumps on Times reporting.

But only one was remotely fair, and the other should alarm even the biggest liberal media conspiracy theorists.

First, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas decried a Times “hit piece” that revealed he had failed to disclose a loan from Goldman Sachs on a campaign finance filing in 2012. “If that’s the best the New York Times has got, they better go back to the well,” Cruz said.

Later, Donald Trump denied telling the Times editorial board that he favors a 45 percent tariff on Chinese imports. “That’s wrong,” Trump asserted. “They were wrong. It’s the New York Times — they are always wrong.”

The Republican crowd in North Charleston, S.C., ate up both retorts, but even if they loved and agreed with Cruz's, they ought to be concerned about Trump's.

As I noted earlier on Friday, Cruz’s response to the Times’s Goldman Sachs story was far from flawless. He misrepresented the timeline of his loan disclosure, downplaying what he referred to as an omission “on a second filing” when, in fact, his campaign left Goldman financing off the first filing — the one voters could see before casting ballots in his 2012 Senate race.

But Cruz’s broader point — that the lack of disclosure is no big deal — is at least a logical argument. If nothing else, it’s a judgment call. He and his supporters can believe, if they want, that the Times blew the story out of proportion (it appeared on the front page) and did so because of a liberal bias. You can agree or disagree, but you can’t prove them wrong because it’s a subjective matter.

Trump, on the other hand, simply wasn’t truthful when he alleged that the Times got his 45 percent tariff “wrong.” That’s fact -- not opinion. As The Post's Erik Wemple already chronicled, the Republican front-runner can clearly be heard on an interview recording making the exact tariff recommendation that the Times reported.

Times question: What would you do to exert pressure on China?

Trump: I would tax China coming in — products coming in. I would do a tariff. And they do it to us. You have to be smart. I’m a free trader; I’m a free trader. And some of the people would tell you, ‘Oh, it’s terrible.’ I love free trade, but it’s gotta be reasonably fair. I would do a tax. And let me tell you what the tax should be. The tax should be 45 percent. That would be a tax that would be an equivalent to some of the kind of devaluations that they’ve done. They cannot believe that we haven’t done this yet.”

The Times might not be a very sympathetic victim in conservative eyes, but Republican voters should be troubled by the reality that their prospective nominee so readily and blatantly misstates things when he finds himself in a tight spot. It’s not the first time. They also ought to be bothered by his propensity for stonewalling critics, rather than engaging them — as an effective president must do. The Times reported Friday afternoon that Trump aides ejected one of the newspaper's reporters from an event in Waukee, Iowa, that was open to other media. Again, this was not the first time Trump has pulled such a childish stunt.

Whether you like the Times or not, its reporting is revealing information about how the candidates operate. The candidates can take issue with how it's presented; they can't change the facts when it suits them.