Why Is Ted Cruz So Eager for Phil Robertson’s Endorsement?

Remember that time the Duck Dynasty patriarch compared gay sex to beastiality and said African-Americans were ‘happy’ before the civil rights movement? The senator sure does.

It has now been more than two years since Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson captivated the country with his infamously offensive interview to GQ magazine.

And Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz is ready to welcome the 69-year-old Louisiana duck hunter’s endorsement with open arms. On Wednesday, a new video popped up on Cruz’s website introducing the man his campaign hopes will now be referred to as the “Cruz Commander.”

“My qualifications for president of the United States are rather narrow,” Robertson says into the camera, his face smeared with camouflage paint. “Is he or she Godly, does he or she love us, can he or she do the job, and finally, would they kill a duck and put him in a pot and make him a good duck gumbo?”

“I’ve looked at the candidates,” he continues. “Ted Cruz is my man. He fits the bill. He’s Godly, he loves us, he’s the man for the job, and he will go duck hunting.”

Need proof of Cruz’s hunting skills? There he is side by side with Robertson, even darker paint on his face as he raises his rifle to the sky and fires. “You’re one of us, my man,” Robertson tells Cruz, leaving the candidate practically speechless.

Robertson was already quite famous in some circles for his role in A&E’s backcountry reality show Duck Dynasty when he decided to speak to GQ’s Drew Magary in December 2013. But his fame rose to a new level when he delivered quotes like:

“It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus.”

And: “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.”

And don’t forget his summary of life in the pre-civil rights South:

“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, I tell you what: These doggone white people—not a word!…Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

Two years on, Cruz eagerly accepted Robertson’s endorsement not in spite of these beliefs—but rather because of them.

“I am thrilled to have Phil’s support for our campaign,” Cruz told Fox News’s Todd Starnes in an “exclusive” interview Wednesday. “The Robertsons are a strong family of great Christian faith and conservative values.” Before shooting the endorsement video, he reportedly had dinner at the family’s Louisiana home Sunday night.

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The Texas senator is running neck and neck with Donald Trump in Iowa, and a win there on the backs of evangelical voters would go a long way to cementing his place as the Trump alternative moving forward. The embrace of someone with Robertson’s anti-gay “conservative values” can only help bolster his position in the first caucus state.

But should Cruz find his way to the general election, will he be able to shed Robertson’s bigoted stench?

Following the remarks in GQ, A&E “suspended” Robertson from appearing on Duck Dynasty. But once it became clear that the rest of the family would not go on without their patriarch, the network caved and welcomed him back on the air. However, ratings for the show began to drop precipitously after the fallout. While the series peaked with nearly 11 million viewers in its August 2013 season premiere, just one year later the premiere ratings fell to less than 3 million.

Rather than rallying around their man, it turns out many viewers may have been turned off by Robertson’s comments. There may be a group of diehard Iowans who love Duck Dynasty, but they were probably voting for Ted Cruz already. Ultimately, he will have to win over everyone who doesn’t believe AIDS is God’s punishment for “immoral conduct.”