Ben Carson’s sinking campaign hit another low point last night when the famed surgeon finished fourth in the Iowa caucus, a good 14 points behind Marco Rubio in what appears to now be a three-person race for the Republican nomination. The Carson camp has so far offered one reason for his poor showing: a quick-spreading rumor started by Ted Cruz that Carson was dropping out of the race.

This may seem like sour grapes served up by a foundering, poorly-run campaign, but Ted Cruz’s people aren’t exactly saying they didn’t do it. Per a well-reported MSNBC story:

Cruz campaign spokesman Rick Tyler denied the allegations to MSNBC, but said his people did alert some supporters that Carson planned to go to Florida after the Iowa caucuses instead of campaigning.

That’s quite a needle to thread. The Cruz campaign says it didn’t explicitly state that Carson was dropping out; they only implied it by telling their supporters to tell Carson’s supporters that he was, like, going on vacation.

But Rick Tyler is either lying, or the Cruz campaign’s directive to its supporters got lost in translation. The Carson campaign has cited this tweet from Rep. Steve King, one of Cruz’s top endorsers in Iowa, as evidence that Cruz’s campaign was spreading the rumor that Carson was dropping out:

MSNBC’s Jane C. Timm quotes several Carson supporters who were told by Cruz volunteers at separate precincts that Carson was dropping out. Timm also spoke to at least one presumably unbiased source—a Huckabee supporter—who gave a detailed account of what Cruz’s campaign appeared to be up to last night:

Barb Heki, a homeschool activist and Gov. Mike Huckabee supporter who said she is friendly with nearly all the campaigns in Iowa, told MSNBC that the speakers supporting Cruz at her caucus location, Hyperion Point Country Club in Johnston, Iowa, announced that Carson was getting out of the race before several-hundred caucus-goers at her location took a vote.

“They gave their speech for Ted Cruz and said we also need to announce, and let you know, that Dr. Ben Carson has announced that he’s suspending his race for awhile after the caucuses are over,” Heki said. The Cruz supporters suggested the campaign had alerted them.

Again, Tyler, Cruz’s spokesperson, “denies” this characterization but makes it pretty easy to read between the lines:

Tyler denied this, saying that they’d shared the “newsworthy” news of Carson’s travel plans and that kind of communication to supporters was not unusual.

Carson’s campaign is maintaining that upper-level Cruz staffers directly misled their volunteers across Iowa:

“To have campaigns come out and send emails to their caucus speakers suggesting that Dr. Carson was doing anything but moving forward after tonight is the lowest of low in American politics,” Carson campaign manager Ed Brookover told reporters.

Well, anyway, if you’re feeling bad for Ben Carson: don’t!

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