DES MOINES, Iowa (Christian Examiner) – A new radio advertisement in Iowa is attacking Republican Sen. Ted Cruz's credibility as an Evangelical Christian, Politico has reported.
In the advertisement, which began airing this week, a female voice cites a December 2015 report from the political news site which said Cruz told a group of moderate Republicans in New York that opposing gay marriage would not be one of his top priorities.
But the ad doesn't tell the whole story. In addition to the fact that U.S. Supreme Court settled U.S. law on gay marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges in June 2015, the same report noted that Cruz's comments "do not contradict what the Texas Republican senator has said elsewhere," but instead reveal the candidate's shift to priorities where results remain achievable.
Cruz has said on multiple occasions that he believes the definition of marriage should be left to individual states because the federal government is not empowered by the Constitution to define it. In the full conversation documented on Politico's website, he is recorded as saying the same thing.
The new ad, however, claims that Cruz "tells them [New Yorkers] one thing, tells Iowa another."
The attack ad doesn't end there. It also cites Cruz's charitable contributions of $44,000 between 2006 and 2010. That figure, the ad says, means Cruz gives "less than 1 percent to charity and church."
"He doesn't tithe? Isn't he a millionaire? His wife worked for a big Wall Street bank, right?" One of the women says just before the advertisement concludes with its verdict that Cruz is a "phony" Christian.
The Cruz campaign reportedly has not responded to the commercial directly, but on Jan. 20 it posted to its website an article by conservative radio host and former editor of RedState.com Erick Erickson.
"Ted Cruz is a not an academic evangelical. He's a country music evangelical. He lost his father, found Jesus, got back his father, lost his sister, and did what it took to keep his family above water. When he gets on a stage and connects with Christian audiences, yes he is trying to woo Christians to his side, but he also believes in the power of scripture. This is not a stunt for Ted Cruz," Erickson wrote.
Erickson also linked his comments to a Cruz campaign documentary which explores the candidate's faith and that of his family. Cruz also announced his candidacy for the presidency at the conservative Liberty University.
The ad's claim that Cruz is not an authentic Christian also runs contrary to other critics on the opposite end of the spectrum who claim Cruz is a thoroughly right-wing Christian Dominionist, or a proponent of Christian Reconstructionism – an effort to turn America into a theocracy.
According to Politico, Americans United for Values, which is spending $125,000 to air the commercial, is overseen by Republican strategist Nick Everhart, who has faced political and legal trials of his own recently.
Once the darling of Strategy Group for Media, an organization that has worked to elect Christian candidates to office and which has been tied to Rand Paul's past campaigns, Everhart faced a potential prison sentence in 2015 after he was fired from the political strategy firm and found guilty of trying to later access his work files surreptitiously. He was eventually granted probation.
If Everhart is overseeing the ad run, he is likely the source of some of comments in the December Politico article, as well. In that piece, writer Mike Allen said he spoke with "an adviser to a rival campaign, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wants to stay behind the scenes."
"There's an Iowa Ted and a New York Ted," the adviser told Allen in language virtually identical to the ad now targeting Cruz. "He sounds different behind closed doors."
Just who is fronting the money behind the anti-Cruz ad remains a mystery. A Federal Elections Commission filing only lists a generic contact email and post office box number for Americans United for Values.
The treasurer for the organization is listed as Brian Kinnett. A web search of the name yielded several possibilities of individuals behind the new PAC, but none could be immediately confirmed. Christian Examiner's call to the phone number listed in the FEC filing was not immediately returned.
With the Iowa caucuses scheduled for Feb. 1, the late advertisement targeting Cruz's evangelical bona fides follows Donald Trump's latest salvos against Cruz. Trump said at a campaign rally last month:
"Just remember this. You gotta remember, in all fairness, to the best of my knowledge, not too many evangelicals come out of Cuba, okay? Just remember that ... just remember."