OSHKOSH, Wisconsin — Ted Cruz accused Republican presidential rival Donald Trump of stoking false rumors about his personal life on Friday, charging that the billionaire businessman and GOP front-runner is trafficking in “sleaze” and “slime.”

Speaking to reporters in Wisconsin, Cruz said the campaign has taken a “darker turn.” He accused Trump and “his henchmen” for spreading untrue rumors on social media and in a supermarket tabloid that Cruz cheated on his wife, Heidi.

“Trump demonstrated that when he’s scared, when he’s losing, his first and natural resort is to go to sleaze and to go to slime,” Cruz said.

He added, “He’s willing to attack anyone and everyone. And truth has nothing to do with it.”

In response to Cruz’s comments, Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said via email, “There is absolutely no truth to this.”

The accusations are an escalation of the back-and-forth between the two candidates that began this week, when Trump tweeted that he might “spill the beans” about Heidi Cruz. The tweet was in response to an advertisement from an outside group opposed to Trump’s candidacy that featured a risqué photo of Trump’s wife, Melania.

Cruz, on his Facebook page on Friday, accused Trump, who hasn’t held a public event since Monday, of “hiding in Trump Tower” and campaigning by Twitter instead of holding events with voters.

Asked if he plans to vote for Trump if he becomes the party’s nominee, Cruz said, “I don’t make a habit of supporting people who attack my wife and my family.”

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More than 30 years’ experience reporting and editing for newspapers and magazines in Illinois, Colorado, Texas and New Jersey and 1985 winner of the Texas Daily Newspaper Association’s John Murphy Award for copy editing.

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