A day after Tucker Carlson publicly scolded him for the unforgivable sin of calling the Jan. 6 insurrection a “violent terrorist attack,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) hightailed it to the Fox News star’s show on Thursday night to grovel for forgiveness.
Yet, while Cruz repeatedly claimed he’d made a “mistake” due to “sloppy and frankly dumb” phrasing, Carlson wouldn’t let the Texas senator off the hook—prompting the one-time presidential contender to plead harder for Carlson’s approval.
Cruz, one of eight senators who objected to the certification of President Joe Biden’s electoral victory, drew Carlson’s wrath on Wednesday when he solemnly described the deadly Capitol riot as “a violent terrorist attack” during a Senate hearing.
Carlson, who has downplayed the violence of Jan. 6 and suggested the insurrection was a “false flag” orchestrated by federal agents, wondered “what the hell’s going on,” while accusing Cruz of “repeating the talking points that Merrick Garland has written.”
In a moment that evoked Cruz siding with Donald Trump in 2016 after Trump personally disparaged his wife and father, the Republican lawmaker appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight to kiss the ring and beg the Fox News audience to forgive him.
“There are a lot of dumb people in Congress. You are not one of them. Smarter than I am. And you never use words carelessly,” Carlson kicked off the interview. “And yet you call this a terror attack when by no definition was it a terror attack. That was a lie. You told that lie on purpose and I’m wondering why you did.”
After saying he contacted Carlson the night before to ask to come on and tell his side, Cruz then claimed the way he phrased his words “was sloppy and frankly dumb.” Carlson, however, was having none of it.
“I don’t buy that,” the Fox star interjected. “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! I’ve known you a long time since before you went to the Senate. You were a Supreme Court contender. You take words as seriously as any man who’s served in the Senate. And every word—you repeated that phrase, I do not believe that you used that accidentally. I just don’t!”
“Tucker, as a result of my sloppy phrasing it’s caused a lot of people to misunderstand what I meant. Let me tell you what I meant to say,” Cruz implored. “What I was referring to are the limited number of people who engaged in violent attacks against police officers. I think you and I both agree that if you assault a police officer, you should go to jail. That is who I was talking about.”
Again saying his “phrasing was sloppy,” Cruz insisted he “wasn’t saying the thousands of peaceful protesters supporting Donald Trump are somehow terrorists.” Carlson, though, remained unconvinced.
“Hold on, what you just said doesn’t even make sense,” the primetime host replied. “If someone assaults a cop, he should go to jail, I couldn’t agree more. We’ve said that for years. But that person is still not a terrorist. How many people of been charged with terrorism on January 6? Like, why did you use that word? You’re playing into the other side’s characterization!”
Cruz maintained that for over a decade, he had used the word “terrorist” to describe people who had violently assaulted police officers. At the same time, he attempted to appeal to Carlson’s ego.
“That being said, Tucker, I agree with you, it was a mistake to say that yesterday and the reason is what you just said,” the former presidential candidate said. “We have now had a year of Democrats and the media twisting words and trying to say that all of us are terrorists. Trying to say you are a terrorist, I am a terrorist.”
Cruz went on to say that he understood “why people were angry” with his comments, claiming that it was within the context of the “corrupt corporate media” taking aim at “anyone who objected to election fraud” over the past year.
“Wait, wait, wait, can I just ask, I guess I just don’t believe you! And I mean that with respect, because I have such respect for your acuity and your precision,” said Carlson, alongside an on-air graphic blaring “Cruz'ing For A Bruising.”
“I’ve seen it on display, I’ve covered you as a reporter, I know how you speak. And you have sat there for a year and watched people use language to distort the events of that day intentionally. Insurrection, coup, terrorism!”
Eventually, after agreeing with Carlson that the Jan. 6 insurrection wasn’t an insurrection, Cruz again apologized for calling Jan. 6 rioters “terrorists” while peppering in right-wing buzzwords.
“But the reason I’ve used that word is I’ve used that word for people who violently assault cops. I used that word in 2020 for the antifa and BLM terrorists who assaulted cops and firebombed police cars, but I agree it was a mistake to use the word yesterday,” the conservative senator proclaimed.
After putting Cruz through the wringer for nearly eight minutes, Carlson ended the interview by thanking the Texas lawmaker for coming on his show.