Are the allegations against Cruz defamatory?

The story in the National Enquirer that Ted Cruz had affairs with five women has had at least one beneficial outcome and that is it sheds some light on how the political gossip machine operates. Michael Calderone decribes it as a massive game of telephone and takes us through the timeline of how the rumors went from person to person and quickly became a complicated web where it has become impossible to figure out who originated the story. It seems like the story has been circulating for months, and was at one time being pushed by the Marco Rubio camp at a time when he and Cruz were vying for the second place slot behind Trump.

Hearing the same story from many different sources tempts people to think that there must be some truth to it since it implies multiple sources but one must be very cautious. It is entirely possible that it is just one rumor started by a single person that ricocheted rapidly round the small echo chamber that is the political media class.

I thought that Cruz had issued a vigorous and unequivocal denial but those who parse these things carefully suggest that it was not so and that he has left himself some wiggle room for it being true. I have to admit that I don’t see it but these shades of meaning and ‘non-denial denials’ are too subtle for me.

But now the story is out there and the question is what Cruz should do besides denying it. The obvious thing that people expect him to do if the story is false is for him or the identified women to sue the tabloid for defamation. Ronn Blitzer discusses what is involved in winning a defamation suit in this particular case.

  1. That the statement is false. No matter how damaging the sex scandal may be, if the story is true, Cruz wouldn’t have a case.
  2. It has to be made public to someone other than the person who said it and the person it’s about. Publishing it in the Enquirer for the world to see certainly satisfies this requirement.
  3. The defamatory statement has to be someone’s fault, and you have to show whose fault. Since the Enquirer published it, it would be their fault for getting it wrong.
  4. The statement actually caused harm. This one could be tough to measure. If Cruz’s poll numbers drop dramatically and his campaign enters a downward spiral, that could be an indication that he was harmed by the story, but the defense could be that it happened for other reasons. If Cruz ends up winning the nomination, it would be tougher to argue that he was harmed. Unless, of course, his marriage suffers, in which case that Cruz could argue that he suffered harm.
  5. Now, for regular people, all you need are the four previous elements. But for public figures like Cruz, he would have to prove that the statement was made with “actual malice.” This extra requirement came about in the landmark 1964 case New York Times v. Sullivan, which said that the lives of public officials are of public concern, so if a false statement was made by accident, it’s not a problem. Here’s where it gets tricky for Cruz. He would have to show that the Enquirer knew or should have known it was false. If they did and ran int anyway, that could spell trouble.

While Cruz certainly is a public figure, I am not sure of the status of the three identified women who all work for political campaigns and have appeared on TV in that role. Does that constitute being a public figure? The two other women have not been named but are identified as being a teacher and a prostitute which certainly does not make them public figures.

If Cruz does not sue, people may think that it is because the story is true. Roger Stone, a well-known political operative renowned for being sleazy, who supports Donald Trump, and was the only named source in the Enquirer story, is daring Cruz to sue by saying that he won’t because he knows the rumors are true.

But there are good reasons for Cruz not suing, even if he is innocent and thinks he can win. For one thing, it can create political problems for him because it keeps the story in the media for much longer and all manner of extraneous issues can be brought in, whereas he may calculate that it is in his best political interests as far as the campaign is concerned to have the story die as quickly as possible. For another, once he sues, he opens the gates to a close inquiry into many aspects of his private life even if those have little or nothing to do with this case. Few people want their lives put under such a microscope even if they are pretty blameless. So we should not draw any inference of guilt from a decision by him not to sue. The three identified women will have to do similar cost-benefit calculations, as will the other two if they are identified.

On a less serious note, one thing working in Cruz’s favor is that he is so unpleasant that people are incredulous that even one woman would voluntarily choose to have sex with him, let alone five. On the other hand, adding some verisimilitude to the story is that one of his trysts was supposedly in a closet and Cruz has been known to meet people in closets.


  1. corwyn says

    What Cruz should say:
    “I am quite frankly astonished that there is anyone who takes what the National Enquirer prints seriously. My wife said that she was glad to get a confirmation of my marital fidelity in the form of a National Enquirer article claiming the opposite.
    I am saddened that the political process has reached the point where this sort of thing is happening.
    I apologize to the women named, for being dragged through the mud in someone’s effort to malign me.
    I shall not be suing the paper, as that might imply that there was even a chance that they print news rather than entertainment, However, if any of the women named wish to sue, I offer to pay any legal costs not covered by the settlement.
    I won’t speak of this again. Can we talk about issues now?”

  2. says

    What Cruz should say:
    “I’m Ted Cruz! People don’t like me! I’m a repugnant human being who someone managed to find one woman who could bear to be with me. How the hell do you think I could find more, let alone five more?!?!? Here, let me do one of my impressions and you tell me if you would tap this.”

  3. says

    Who cares who fucking fucks what fucker? I just want to know if politicians are gonna be relatively honest. Which would mean saying “Yah I did that, so what?” and rolling on.

  4. lorn says

    Superficially, Cruz is in my opinion the opposite of what I imagine attractive to be.

    But there is no accounting for taste so I don’t know that Cruz is so loathsome a character that his getting laid, outside of some serious coin being involved, or him volunteering to be whipped (stranger things have happened), is unimaginable. The generosity of women knows no bounds and the blindness of lovers is legendary. There are women that have deep emotional bonds, who seek marriage and conjugal visits, with serial killers who will never, ever, get out of jail.

    There probably are women who are attracted to cloying, greasy, duplicitous, self-righteous, whiny, and self-centered. A cry if there ever was one for more effective mental health services.

    I suspect that Cruz is vulnerable to accusations of moral defect simply because he tries to come across as the voice of morality and propriety, while back-stabbing everyone around him for often trivial and fleeting political gain. The result is an air of smarminess and treachery around him and an expectation that there is some great crime that counterbalances the self-righteousness.

    The same effect is seen around aggressively anti-gay preachers. It happens so often that it has become a thing, that it is just a matter of time before the vehemently anti-gay preacher is caught ‘having his luggage lifted’.

    By my estimation these accusations, more rumors really, are hurtful but fairly mild. They are of heterosexual encounters and, so far, easy to laugh off. These may be test-shots to see if the public buys it and if Cruz can be rattled. We aren’t into April yet and already we are past penis size and whose wife is hot. Rumors of affairs are the next step.

    With any luck, there are many months yet to go and both Trump and Cruz have vicious sides, we may soon enough be talking about dalliances with barnyard animals.

    All it will take is a membership and a few poorly chosen words: ‘He was into 4-H and loved that prize Nubian’ …

  5. doublereed says

    It amazes me how the media and such love these scandals. Like, sure, they’re fun, but I got bored of it like a day later. It’s far less interesting than, for instance, Cruz saying he wants to abolish the IRS. That should make the media raise some eyebrows and want all the salacious details. It’s just as catchy and baffling as people willingly having sex with Cruz, but it’s actually relevant to the campaign.

  6. raven says

    It’s just as catchy and baffling as people willingly having sex with Cruz,…

    1. To a toad, another toad can look just absolutely fabulous.
    2. What little I’ve seen of Cruz’s wife Heidi, indicates that she is a lot like him. No surprise.

  7. says

    Wow, all these comments about how unattractive and un sexually-stimulating Cruz is, it’s almost like listening to a bunch of Trumpies talking shit about how Hillary Clinton looks.

    Surely, you’ve got enough things to dislike about Cruz without having to get into his appearance.

  8. StevoR says

    @3.Marcus Ranum :

    Who cares who fucking fucks what fucker?

    Not me. But there’s always someone, usually plenty of people. The “sex sells and lowest common denominator “principles” (ok perhaps not the right word here) or adages would seem to apply here.

    I just want to know if politicians are gonna be relatively honest. Which would mean saying “Yah I did that, so what?” and rolling on.

    Only if its actually true. It is isn’t then equally denying it, saying so what anyhow and moving on would be equally honest.

    I don’t know which is the case yet. Not sure anyone besides Cruz and the ladies in question here really do.

    The other adage that springs to mind is the one about politicians surviving everything but being caught with dead girls or live boys -- sexist cliched and sadly likely true. Cruz has then only been accused of with live girls -- so far -- and the affairs sound like consensual ones o it shouldn’t then doom him politically. More’s the pity.

  9. John Morales says


    @3.Marcus Ranum :

    Who cares who fucking fucks what fucker?

    Not me. But there’s always someone, usually plenty of people. The “sex sells and lowest common denominator “principles” (ok perhaps not the right word here) or adages would seem to apply here.

    As I understand it, his voter base skews towards evangelicals and Christian dominionists. They are known to care, at least publicly.

  10. sonofrojblake says

    it shouldn’t then doom him politically

    Not on its own, maybe. It’s very much the sort of thing that would completely slide off Trump, but it’ll stick to Cruz because he’s nailed his colours pretty firmly to the “judgmental evangelical” mast.

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