US presidential race gets ugly: Ted Cruz calls Donald Trump a 'sniveling coward' and tells him to leave his wife alone
US Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz has denounced an article in the National Enquirer tabloid claiming he had extramarital affairs as "complete and utter lies" and accused rival Donald Trump of being the source of the story.
Mr Cruz also branded Mr Trump a "sniveling coward" for attacking his wife Heidi over her appearance and a battle she had with depression a decade ago
The senator said: "You know, seeing him (Mr Trump) go deeper and deeper into the gutter...it's not easy to tick me off. I don't get angry often but you mess with my wife and that'll do it every time."
Jabbing his finger and looking straight into a TV camera he said: "Donald, you're a sniveling coward and leave Heidi the Hell alone."
The story took the Republican presidential race to a new level of personal rancor and Trump issued a statement saying he was not responsible for it.
"I have nothing to do with the National Enquirer and unlike Lyin' Ted Cruz I do not surround myself with political hacks and henchman and then pretend total innocence," Trump said.
Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas, addressed the Enquirer story at a news conference in Wisconsin, saying, "Let me be clear. This National Enquirer story is garbage. It is complete and utter lies. It's tabloid smear and it is a smear that has come from Donald Trump and his henchmen."
Trump's statement pointed to other articles the Enquirer, a tabloid known for its gossip and unflattering celebrity photos, had been correct about in the past.
"Ted Cruz's problem with the National Enquirer is his and his alone, and while they were right about O.J. Simpson, John Edwards, and many others, I certainly hope they are not right about Lyin' Ted Cruz," the billionaire New York developer said.
Trump and Cruz have sparred in recent days about their wives as they battle to be the Republican nominee in the Nov. 8 election. Earlier this week Trump accused Cruz of posting a nude photo of Trump's wife, Melania, on Twitter. Cruz denied having any role in the photo being circulated on the Internet and Trump responded by threatening to "spill the beans" on Cruz's wife.
Cruz said the Enquirer story was evidence that Trump is unfit to be president. "This man would be an embarrassment," he said.
The Enquirer published blurred images of five women with whom it said Cruz has had affairs but did not name them. Two women who appeared to be pictured in the Enquirer stepped forward on Friday and called the article false.
The National Enquirer could not immediately be reached for comment on the story.
Cruz' wife, Heidi Cruz, was campaigning with him on Friday and he gave her a hug and kiss before he began a town hall event. She sat off stage smiling while he spoke.
This is not the first time a presidential candidate has been accused of extramarital sex.
During the 1992 campaign, Gennifer Flowers came forward to detail an affair she had with Bill Clinton. Subsequently, more women admitted to having affairs with him, including then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
Former Colorado Senator Gary Hart, a Democrat, had his 1988 presidential campaign derailed when reports surfaced that he was having an affair.
Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards admitted to having an affair with a campaign photographer during his 2004 campaign, although the public did not learn about the romance until after he was defeated.
The Enquirer's Cruz story exploded on the social media site Twitter overnight on Thursday. By Thursday afternoon, #CruzSexScandal was a worldwide trending topic on Twitter.