"I was like, 'Holy s---, did he just say that?' " a source says of George W. Bush's reported comments about Ted Cruz

By Tierney McAfee
Updated October 20, 2015 02:55 PM
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Credit: Getty (2)

George W. Bush had some harsh words for his former employee Ted Cruz at a recent campaign event for brother Jeb Bush.

“I just don’t like the guy,” George reportedly said of the Texas senator and GOP presidential hopeful, sources who attended the event told Politico.

“I was like, ‘Holy s—, did he just say that?’ ” one donor recalled to Politico. “I remember looking around and seeing that other people were also looking around surprised.”

Indeed, the former president didn’t mince words as he addressed the 100 Jeb Bush campaign donors gathered at a Denver condominium Sunday night – criticizing Cruz for his apparent ties with GOP front-runner Donald Trump.

The unlikely duo joined forces last month to protest the Iran deal with a rally on Capitol Hill. And Trump, who has attacked the majority of his 2016 rivals – and especially Jeb and his brother – has yet to take aim at Cruz.

George reportedly “said he found it ‘opportunistic’ that Cruz was sucking up to Trump and just expecting all of his support to come to him in the end,” another donor told Politico.

Cruz, who served as a domestic policy adviser to George during his 2000 presidential campaign, has since changed his tune about the former president. In his 2015 book, A Time for Truth: Reigniting the Promise of America, Cruz criticized George’s administration for enabling “bigger government and excessive spending and new entitlements.”

Although several donors said George seemed to see Cruz as his brother’s toughest competition in 2016, a spokesman for the former president, Freddy Ford, said in a statement to PEOPLE, “The first words out of President Bush’s mouth last night were that Jeb is going to earn the nomination, win the election, and be a great president. He does not view Sen. Cruz as Gov. Bush’s most serious rival.”

And Cruz reacted in a statement issued by his campaign Monday night, saying, “I have great respect for George W. Bush, and was proud to work on his 2000 campaign and in his administration.”

“It’s no surprise that President Bush is supporting his brother and attacking the candidates he believes pose a threat to his campaign. I have no intention of reciprocating. I met my wife Heidi working on his campaign, and so I will always be grateful to him.”