DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) - At a dinner with reporters on Tuesday night, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee admitted that he had neither read nor been briefed on the latest national intelligence estimate, which stated that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003.
“I don’t know where the intelligence is coming from that says they have suspended the program, or how credible that is versus the view that they actually are expanding it,” Huckabee told the assembled journalists, after being informed of the report’s content by a questioner.
“And I’ve heard, the last two weeks, supposed reports that they are accelerating it and it could be having a reactor in a much shorter period of time than originally been thought,” he added.
The candidate’s apparent lack of knowledge on the issue comes at a time when the former Arkansas governor is facing intensifying scrutiny due to his rise in the polls. A Des Moines Register survey released on Sunday found Huckabee leading the GOP field in Iowa with 29 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers.
Huckabee attributed recent attacks on his Arkansas record on taxes, immigration and the criminal justice system to “desperation” on the part of rival campaigns.
“I call it that the ‘tattle tale campaign,’” he said. “Sometimes campaigns are reduced to tattle tales on the others. I think it’s a real turn off to most people.”
- CNN's Dana Bash and Evan Glass