Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has offered a stunning explanation for flying out to Cancun on Wednesday night as his home state literally froze to death: He was being a good dad.
“Whether the decision to go was tone-deaf, look, it was obviously a mistake, and in hindsight I wouldn’t have done it. I was trying to be a dad,” Cruz told reporters late Thursday after returning home to a crowd of protesters chanting “Resign!”
“And all of us have made decisions… when you’ve got two girls who’ve been cold for two days and haven’t had heat or power, and they’re saying, ‘Hey look we don’t have school, let’s get out of here.’ I think there are a lot of parents that’d be like, if I can do this, great,” he said.
Cruz dodged a question from a reporter on whether he had returned simply because he had gotten caught, but he claimed he had always planned to “work remotely” from his hotel while thousands of Texans back home struggled to survive.
“It was not my intention for [the trip] to be understood as… somehow diminishing the suffering and hardship other Texans had experienced,” he said late Thursday.
Earlier Thursday, as outrage over his getaway grew, he sought to defuse the situation with similar statements.
“My staff and I are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas,” he said. “We want our power back, our water on, and our homes warm. My team and I will continue to use all our resources to keep Texans informed and safe.”
Cruz acknowledged it had been an “infuriating week” for millions of Texans who were without power, or dangerously close to running out of food and water. But he seemed to suggest he’d always planned to return home after one night, contrary to reports he was intending to stay in Mexico with his wife, Heidi, and two daughters until Saturday. Texts from his wife to a group of friends seemed to show the family planned for the trip to last till Sunday.
A United Airlines source told travel publication Skift that Cruz rebooked his flight back to Houston on Thursday morning, cutting his trip two days short. NBC also reported that Cruz booked his return ticket early Thursday morning. A spokesperson for the airline declined to confirm it to The Daily Beast, saying, “We do not share customer information or booking data.”
In brief comments to a Telemundo reporter at Cancun airport, Cruz again suggested he was only “dropping off” his daughters.
“Yesterday my daughters asked if they could take a trip with some friends and Heidi and I agreed, so I flew down with them last night, dropped them off here, and now I’m headed back to Texas and back to continuing to work to try to get the power on,” he said, adding that his family was among those without heat and power.
On Thursday afternoon, Cruz was spotted arriving back in Houston, escorted by two law enforcement officers.
Cruz’s staff had asked the Houston Police Department—which has been busy dealing with the deadly storm—to assist Cruz when he arrived at George Bush Intercontinental Airport on Wednesday for his departing flight.
“His staff requested assistance upon the Senator’s arrival at the airport. Upon his arrival at the terminal, we monitored his movement,” the department said in a statement on Thursday morning.
The beach vacation came during an ongoing catastrophe in his home state—freezing weather has caused days of mass power failures, which, in turn, have caused widespread food shortages and water outages. At least 1o people have died and millions have been left cold and in the dark. In his final tweet before the flight, Cruz wrote, “A blizzard strikes Texas & our state shuts down. Not good.”
Fellow travelers seemed to out his insanely tone-deaf trip on Wednesday night by posting snaps of him inside an airport and then, later, on a plane. In the photos, Heidi Cruz is visible alongside her husband, raising questions about the senator’s explanation that he needed to escort their daughters, aged 10 and 13.
According to The New York Times, Heidi Cruz had actually announced the trip to neighbors on Wednesday morning, writing in a group text: “Anyone can or want to leave for the week? We may go to Cancún.”
She reportedly went on to mention a “direct flight” and “hotels w capacity,” revealing plans for a stay at the local Ritz-Carlton. But for those stuck behind, she said, “We have gas stove so at least we can heat water little that there is happy to help anyone we can too.”
As Cruz’s office stayed silent for hours, the senator’s opponents leaped on the blunder. Beto O’Rourke, the former Texas congressman who lost to Cruz in 2018, has been busy calling senior citizens to make sure they’re surviving the deep freeze. He told MSNBC that his rival “is vacationing in Cancun right now when people are literally freezing to death in the state that he was elected to represent and serve.”
Texas Rep. Gene Wu, a Democrat, posted one of the many photos of Cruz. He followed it with a tweet that said, “I have so many expletives.”
Cruz’s decision to leave home for the sunny shores of Cancun came just two days after he told his constituents to do the opposite.
“I was speaking this weekend with the meteorologist expert who was saying the combination of these two storms, we could see up to 100 people lose their lives this week in Texas. So don’t risk it. Keep your family safe and just stay home and hug your kids,” Cruz said on the “Joe Pags Show” on Feb. 15.
But Cruz had no problem slamming Democrats for the same behavior back in December. After Austin Mayor Steve Adler took a trip to Cabo while simultaneously telling residents to stay home to minimize the spread of COVID-19, Cruz was one of the most vocal critics.
“Hypocrites. Complete and utter hypocrites. And don’t forget @MayorAdler who took a private jet with eight people to Cabo and WHILE IN CABO recorded a video telling Austinites to ‘stay home if you can…this is not the time to relax,’” he wrote in a Dec. 2 tweet.
Adler’s office didn’t immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment, but Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s office told The Daily Beast that Turner was too busy keeping constituents safe to worry about Cruz.
“I do not believe Mayor Turner has had time to slow down and read the story about Sen. Ted Cruz flying to Cancun,’” Mary Benton, Turner’s director of communications, told The Daily Beast.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott made a similar comment during a Thursday press briefing, after revealing plans to ask President Joe Biden for a major disaster declaration to provide further relief for residents.
“Candidly, I haven’t been following people’s vacation plans,” the Republican official said after he was asked about Cruz’s travel.
Residents in the Lone Star state were left seething. Akilah Scott-Amos, a 43-year-old small business owner who lives near Houston, told The Daily Beast, “Texas should have went Blue. Cruz is enjoying a vacation in Mexico, amongst the people who he probably doesn't care for anyway, while Beto is out trying to solve problems!”
Another resident, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, said that he was “not surprised” but “disappointed.”
“I feel like he just continuously lets us down,” the Forth Worth resident said.