Ted Cruz feuds with the New York Times — and loves it
The Texas senator is making the most of the Gray Lady’s refusal to put his book on its bestseller list.
By DYLAN BYERS 7/10/15 7:46 PM EDT
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The campaign gods are smiling down on Ted Cruz, gifting him a feud with conservatives’ most despised news outlet at a time when most 2016 campaigns are gasping for Trump-free air.
At issue: The New York Times refuses to grant the Texas senator’s memoir, “A Time for Truth,” a place on its powerful list of bestselling books, despite his publisher’s insistence that his numbers should vault him well ahead of other titles in the top 10.
News of Cruz’s exclusion broke this week after HarperCollins, the book’s publisher, sent a letter to the Times inquiring about its omission from the list, sources with knowledge of the situation told POLITICO, which first reported the story. The Times responded by telling HarperCollins that the book did not meet their criteria for inclusion.
On Thursday, a Times spokesperson said that the book was excluded because the paper had found its sales to be mostly “strategic bulk purchases” — a common practice among political authors, but a claim hotly disputed by Cruz’s campaign.
“The Times is presumably embarrassed by having their obvious partisan bias called out. But their response — alleging ‘strategic bulk purchases’ — is a blatant falsehood,” Cruz campaign spokesperson Rick Tyler said in a statement Friday. “The evidence is directly to the contrary. In leveling this false charge, the Times has tried to impugn the integrity of Senator Cruz and of his publisher Harper Collins.”
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“We call on the Times, release your so-called ‘evidence.’ Demonstrate that your charge isn’t simply a naked fabrication, designed to cover up your own partisan agenda,” Tyler continued. “And, if you cannot do so, then issue a public apology to Senator Cruz and Harper Collins editor Adam Bellow for making false charges against them.”
Tyler’s blast came just minutes after HarperCollins announced it had found “no evidence of bulk orders or sales through any retailer or organization” — a statement that all but accused the Times of lying. The publisher also pointed out that ‘A Time For Truth’ “ranked high on other publishing industry bestseller lists including Nielsen Bookscan (#4) … The Wall Street Journal (#4) and Barnes and Noble (#7),” all of which “omit bulk orders books from their rankings.”
Cruz’s camp is clearly relishing the controversy, which has been good for business.
“It’s been a good week and a half with wall-to-wall coverage of the book, and yes, this latest unfortunate news courtesy of the New York Times is a chance to get yet more attention and drive readers to Senator Cruz’s book,” said Keith Urbahn, co-founder of Javelin, a D.C.-based literary agency and communications firm that represented Cruz on the deal and helped with his book rollout. “This controversy is already helping sales.”
Several Cruz-linked Twitter accounts, including @TedCruz, also retweeted a Washington Post blog post with the headline, “Ted Cruz hits the jackpot: A book war with the New York Times.”
Cruz is somewhat better positioned than many of his fellow 2016 rivals, who have struggled to get attention since real estate mogul Donald Trump entered the race.
Not Cruz. Not only is his book a success, giving him a second round of publicity after his May 23 launch, he also appears to be having little trouble raising funds. His campaign announced this week that he had raised at least $51 million split between the official campaign and four super PACs, putting him in second place in the money race behind former Florida governor Jeb Bush and well ahead of Marco Rubio and Scott Walker.
In that sense, Cruz’s feud with the Times is a happy bonus.
Eileen Murphy, the Times spokesperson, said Friday that the paper was standing by her initial claim that the “overwhelming preponderance of evidence was that sales [of Cruz’s book] were limited to strategic bulk purchases.” Murphy did not respond to a request for comment regarding the Cruz campaign’s statement.
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In her initial response, Murphy said the Times had “uniform standards that we apply to our best seller list, which includes an analysis of book sales that goes beyond simply the number of books sold.” She later added, “Our goal is that the list reflect authentic best sellers, so we look at and analyze not just numbers, but patterns of sales for every book.”
The Cruz campaign called Murphy’s initial explanation “cryptic,” and her later claims about bulk purchases “false.”
“Their decision to blackball Cruz’s book suggests that the Times very much does not want people to read the book,” the campaign said. “There were no ‘strategic bulk purchases.’ Cruz spent last week on a nationwide book tour, signing copies of his book at multiple locations. Booksellers at each event had long lines — sometimes over 400 people per event.”
“A Time For Truth” was published on June 30 and sold 11,854 copies in its first week, according to Nielsen Bookscan’s hardcover sale numbers. That’s more than 18 of the 20 titles that will appear on the bestseller list for the week ending July 4, including Aziz Ansari’s “Modern Romance,” which is #2 on the list, and Ann Coulter’s “Adios America,” which is #11.
Cruz’s memoir has also sold more copies in a single week than Rand Paul’s “Taking a Stand,” which has been out for more than a month, and more than Marco Rubio’s “American Dreams,” which has been out for six months.
That may partly be the result of much more aggressive promotion, and partly because Cruz’s book is simply more interesting, with revealing anecdotes about his half-sister’s drug overdose, his time looking at pornography while clerking on the Supreme Court, and his blistering attacks on his fellow Republicans.
“What will really make this book a long-term success is that Senator Cruz deliberately decided not to craft a boilerplate book of safe bromides, like most politicians do,” Urbahn said.
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, gets on an elevator on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 4, 2015, heading to vote on amendments to the annual defense authorization bill. The GOP-led Senate plowed ahead Wednesday on a $612 billion annual defense policy bill despite a White House veto threat and the Democratic leader’s claim that it is an exercise in futility.(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
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A public brawl with The New York Times won’t hurt, either. As the Post’s Philip Bump noted, “When Costco axed Dinesh D’Souza’s book from its shelves last summer for poor sales, the resulting outcry ensured so much demand that Costco quickly restocked it.”
“It’s important to look at a book like a campaign, setting the groundwork early and then seizing opportunities,” noted Urbahn. “The New York Times, ironically, offered us exactly that.”
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