An independent student newspaper has found itself in a whirlwind of national controversy after posting a video Saturday with “inaccurate” subtitles attributed to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, leading to the resignation of a top aide to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
The two Republican presidential hopefuls can thank their latest drama to the University of Pennsylvania’s Daily Pennsylvanian.
The student newspaper caught on video an encounter between Rubio and Cruz’s father, Rafael Cruz, as well as Cruz campaign staffer Christian Collins, in the lobby of the Columbia Hampton Inn while campaigning in South Carolina Saturday morning. The video, published to the paper’s political blog DPolitics, showed Rubio addressing the two men, then patting Collins on the back and commenting on the book he was reading with his coffee.
The Daily Penn staffers thought they heard the video’s audio reveal Rubio mocking Collins for his choice of book — the Bible.
Ellie Schroeder, an editor for the newspaper, wrote a blog post detailing the staff’s interpretation of the exchange seen in the video that included a subtitled version of the video. She and the videographer originally published the article without knowing the book in reference, but later updated the news story to note it had been confirmed as a Bible by a Cruz staffer.
“Got a good book there,” the subtitles read Rubio saying to Collins about the Bible. “Not many answers in it. Especially in that one.”
The post soon gained national attention, with users questioning on Twitter whether Rubio said “not” or “got” answers in his comment to Collins. When approached by newspaper staff Sunday morning, Collins declined to comment on the Daily Penn’s video transcript.
Rick Tyler, Cruz’s communications director, distributed the video on Facebook and Twitter on Sunday, digging at Rubio for dissing the Bible.
“Watch Marco Rubio’s awkward remark about the book a Cruz staffer was reading in the hotel lobby,” Tyler said in his posts. “What book was it?”
Alex Conant, Rubio’s communications director, quickly shot back a corrected version of the video on Twitter. The video was posted with new subtitles, in which he claims Rubio actually tells Collins that “all the answers are in the Bible.”
This video has correct transcript; any other is another dirty trick by Cruz camp. How do I know? I’m in the video!! https://t.co/llZGimU5Jp
— Alex Conant (@AlexConant) February 21, 2016
Tyler later apologized after a Cruz staffer said Rubio didn’t make the comment in question. He said he would not “knowingly post a false story,” but still regretted his mistake.
“The story misquoted a remark [Rubio] made to the staffer,” he said on Facebook. “I assumed wrongly that the story was correct.”
Tyler also urged the Daily Penn to correct its story, but the newspaper stuck by its original reporting until Monday afternoon, when its editor-in-chief Lauren Feiner replaced the subtitled video with raw footage and acknowledged its audio is “too unclear” to determine exactly what Rubio said.
Rubio clarified what he said to the staffer to the press Monday in Nevada.
“I said, ‘The answer to every question you’ll ever have is in that book,’” he said, “and then I pointed to the Book of Proverbs, which he was reading, and I said, ‘Particularly in that one, which is a book of wisdom.’”
Though he accepted the online apology, Rubio urged Cruz to hold his campaign accountable, calling it “a pattern.”
“It’s every single day, something comes out of the Cruz campaign that’s deceptive and untrue, and in this case goes after my faith,” he said.
The apology wasn’t enough for Cruz, either, who has found himself in the middle of various attacks on his campaign’s trustworthiness. Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump has repeatedly called Cruz a “liar,” and former neurosurgeon Ben Carson has accused Cruz of “dirty tricks” in the past.
Ted Cruz lifts the Bible high into the air and then lies like a dog-over and over again! The Evangelicals in S.C. figured him out & said no!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 23, 2016
The whole ordeal had at least one casualty: Tyler’s job.
Cruz asked for Tyler’s resignation on Monday, after “investigating the issue,” for his “grave error of judgment” by promoting a false story that questioned Rubio’s faith, according to The New York Times.
The timing is awkward for the Cruz campaign, with the Republican caucuses in Nevada tonight. Cruz and Rubio have been fighting to prove which of them would be the most viable challenger to Trump.
“I have made clear in this campaign that we will conduct this campaign with the highest standards of integrity,” Cruz told reporters during a news conference in Las Vegas. “Even if it was true, our campaign should not have sent it.”
On Monday, another college newspaper became the center of a national political controversy when The Collegian published a front-page editorial comparing Trump to Adolf Hitler. The student paper at California State University, Fresno, published a photo illustration of Trump’s head on Hitler’s body saluting on the White House lawn. The editorial is titled, “Donald Trump is going to get us all killed.”
According to the Centre Daily Times, the Collegian’s editor-in-chief Troy Pope said the newspaper’s website crashed on Monday because of all the traffic. The paper was slammed with criticism, and the paper added a clarification reminding readers that the post was an editorial and not a news story and that it does not represent the views of Fresno State.
“Students all over campus are engaging in politics in a way they never have before, and those are the people we care about,” the clarification stated. “We stand once again and ask that you do your part and keep talking about the reality of this election — which could be the difference between warfare and prosperity. Remember, the First Amendment ensures everyone’s right to freedom of speech.”