A video captured by a Daily Pennsylvanian staffer on Saturday led to a war of words between the campaigns of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas.) throughout the weekend, culminating in Sen. Cruz asking Communications Director Rick Tyler to resign.
A staffer filmed a video of Rubio entering the Hampton Inn in Columbia, S.C. early Saturday morning, where he encountered Rafael Cruz, Ted’s father, and a Cruz campaign staffer.
In the video, the DP staff members perceived Rubio saying: “Good book you got there. Not many answers in it. Especially in that one.” The editors subtitled the video and posted it along with an entry on the DPolitics Blog, a separate website for the newspaper’s coverage of the 2016 election with the headline, “Marco Rubio has awkward confrontation with Rafael Cruz, Cruz staffer in hotel lobby.”
The staff member and videographer originally published the article and video without knowing the book in reference. A Cruz staffer, who asked not to be named, later said that the book in question was a Bible and this bit of information was added to the article Sunday around 2 a.m. On Sunday morning, DP editors ran into the Cruz staffer, Christian Collins, in the lobby and asked what book he was reading the day before. He said it was the Bible. The editors showed the video to Collins at his request. He did not comment on the transcript but asked if the editors thought Rubio saw Rafael Cruz. Collins asked the editors to send him the link to the post, which they did shortly after. As of Monday night, Collins has not responded to an email request for comment.
On Sunday afternoon, the DP received comments and tweets suggesting that the transcription was incorrect. After further reviewing the audio, Editor-in-Chief Lauren Feiner decided that the audio was too unclear to determine what was said and retracted the initial transcription, stating “We have replaced the video with the raw footage without subtitles. Though our original transcription reflects what we originally heard, after reviewing the audio, we feel it is too unclear to say for sure.”
Hours later, the story had hit the national blogosphere, entering into an already contentious struggle between two candidates searching for a foothold in the Republican presidential campaign behind frontrunner Donald Trump.
Cruz’s campaign has long been under attack by Trump and rival Dr. Ben Carson for adorning his rallies with “TrusTed” signs while allegedly using underhanded tactics to get ahead.
Trump, a 1968 Wharton graduate, tweeted on Monday that Tyler’s use of the video was the latest in a string of “dirty tricks.” He reiterated his call for Cruz’s victory in the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses to be nullified after it was discovered that his team mistakenly informed caucus-goers that Carson planned to suspend his campaign.
Tyler, the Cruz spokesperson, posted the DP’s video to his Facebook page on Sunday morning.
The first major news outlet to pick up the story was Gawker, which posted an article about the video on Sunday at 3:55 p.m.
Around 1 a.m. on Monday morning Tyler posted an apology on his Facebook page.
“I want to apologize to Senator Marco Rubio for posting an inaccurate story about him here earlier today,” he wrote. “The story misquoted a remark the Senator made to the staffer. I assumed wrongly that the story was correct. I've deleted the post because I would not knowingly post a false story. But the fact remains that I did post it when I should have checked its accuracy first. I regret the mistake.”
About an hour later, Tyler sent an email to the author of the DP blog post with the video, saying the "staffer who Rubio spoke to" reportedly said Rubio had told the staffer, "there are a lot of answers in that book."
Tyler appeared on Fox News Monday morning in order to follow up on his apology. By that point, The Washington Post had written an article about the DP post.
Rubio was not entirely receptive to the apology, calling the sharing of the video the latest in a “pattern” of dirty tactics. He said it was perhaps “the most offensive one because they basically made it up.”
That afternoon, reports emerged that Cruz was calling for Tyler’s resignation after the Facebook post — one of a series of incidents that called his tactics into question. Tyler had defended a picture on a campaign website of Rubio shaking hands with President Barack Obama. The picture was later shown to be photoshopped.
“Rick Tyler is a good man. This was a grave error of judgment,” Cruz said in his Monday press conference. “It turned out the news story he sent out was false, but I'll tell you, even if it was true, we are not a campaign that is going to question the faith of another candidate."
DP President Colin Henderson and Feiner said that the DP will also continue to examine the sequence of events that led to the video’s publishing. On Monday evening, the DP published a note from the editor outlining its process of reporting this story.
“We’re talking to alumni and getting opinions and thoughts on what happened during the process and we’re going to evaluate internally to see what measures we can take moving forward,” Henderson said.