'Astonishing': CNN rips into Ted Cruz for 'categorically false' characterization of Iowa controversy

Ted Cruz Apologizes to Ben Carson
Ted Cruz Apologizes to Ben Carson

CNN released a statement on Saturday night decrying debate comments Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) made about a controversy involving his campaign and the Iowa caucuses.

Cruz said CNN's reporting on retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson taking a break from campaigning after the Iowa caucuses earlier this week was wrong, stating that it took the cable news channel hours to correct it.

Click through images from the New Hampshire GOP Debate:

"They didn't correct that story until 9:15 that night," Cruz said. "Subsequent to that initial report, Ben's campaign put out a statement saying that he was not suspending his campaign. I wish that our campaign staff had forwarded that statement. They were unaware of it."

The night of the caucuses, the Cruz campaign called and sent messages to Iowa precinct captains suggesting that Carson could drop out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination. The messages told the precinct captains that they should encourage people to caucus for Cruz instead.

In its statement, CNN blasted Cruz's characterization of its reporting.

"What Senator Cruz said tonight in the debate is categorically false," the statement read. "CNN never corrected its reporting because CNN never had anything to correct. 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."

Cruz blamed his campaign's misleading messages on CNN's reporting and apologized to Carson during the Saturday-night debate.

"On Monday night about 6:30 p.m., CNN reported that Ben was not going from Iowa to New Hampshire or South Carolina, rather he was 'taking a break' from campaigning," Cruz said at the debate. "They reported that on television, CNN's political anchors ... said it was 'highly unusual' and 'highly significant.' My political team saw CNN's report ... and they forwarded that news to our volunteers."

Cruz ended up winning the Iowa caucuses in an upset over Donald Trump, who came in second place. Carson finished in fourth.

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