An emerging political scandal surrounding Ted Cruz's alleged vacation plans hit the internet amid the aftermath of winter storm Uri, which has left millions of Texans without electricity or running water for days.
On Wednesday night, political Twitter was obsessed with unconfirmed reports that the Texas senator had flown to Cancun, Mexico for a family vacation – reports confirmed Thursday morning by Fox News and other outlets.
The look of a Texas senator flying into a sunny resort while his constituents are exposed to unploughed roads, power outages, burst pipes, and food shortages are not great to say the least.
A Twitter user named Juan Gomez piqued curiosity about Cruz's whereabouts just before 9 p.m. ET on Wednesday when he posted a photo of a man who appeared to be Cruz, waiting to be seen at an airport over the heading onto a plane to rise: “Well, Senator Cruz is flying to Cancun while millions of Texans have no electricity. "
This unconfirmed tweet quickly went viral and other unconfirmed photos of fellow travelers soon began surfacing.
Internet experts soon discovered that the man who appeared to be Cruz appeared to be traveling with his wife Heidi (circled in the picture below) and their children. Others noted the man was wearing the same mask and ring that Cruz photographed at the Capitol.
When people went to bed on Wednesday night, social media reports about Cruz went unconfirmed. Many noted that Cruz, a prolific and combative Twitter user, was silent on the radio and his office didn't respond to requests for comment – evidence that something was wrong, but still not enough to be sure the photos were real.
A journalist named David Shuster posted a tweet claiming he had "confirmed" that Cruz and his family "flew to Cancun for a few days tonight at a resort they had previously visited," but as He was asked by other reporters to detail his source, Shuster, I have just spoken of "several eyewitnesses".
Still, people had jokes …
… while others pointed to the horrific look of a US senator vacationing in Mexico while his constituents struggle to survive.
While millions in Texas have no working heat or water because of a heavy snow storm, Ted Cruz flies to Cancun for fun. You just can't make this shit up.
– Charlotte Clymer @ (@cmclymer) February 18, 2021
On Thursday morning, Fox News' Chad Pergram became the first reporter from a major retail outlet to confirm the story, quoting colleague Paul Steinhauser and a GOP source as saying, "The photos speak for themselves." (Ironically, Fox News largely ignored the story on TV, not even mentioning it on Thursday morning.)
Colleague Paul Steinhauser confirms that GOP TX Sen Ted Cruz traveled to Cancun amid the TX storm / power outage. GOP source: "The photos speak for themselves"
– Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) February 18, 2021
The Associated Press and ABC later also confirmed the story. Houston police told ABC that Cruz staff asked for a police presence "upon the senator's arrival at the airport" on Wednesday.
Politico's Jake Sherman tweeted that Cruz appeared to be on the upgrade list for a flight from Cancun to Houston on Thursday, suggesting that Cruz decided to abandon his trip amid the firestorm. (Before Fox News confirmed the story, investigators discovered that Cruz was on the upgrade list for a Wednesday flight from Houston to Cancun.)
Here is the upgrade list for today's flight from Cancun to Houston.
Looks like @tedcruz is on his way back, @danpfeiffer. He's just missing the upgrade list
That assumes that "cru, r" is him. And I do. pic.twitter.com/CqfKa5rJfG
– Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) February 18, 2021
Skift's Edward Russell, citing a United Airlines source, reported that Cruz was originally scheduled to return to Houston from Mexico on Saturday but rebooked his flight Thursday morning. (NBC later confirmed the news.) Cruz was photographed checking in for his flight back to Texas Thursday.
Cruz's office hadn't yet commented when Thursday morning ended, although there were signs that it would be trying to spin the scandal by claiming Cruz had just flown to Mexico to see his family accompany.
In fact, CNN's Betsy Klein posted a statement from Cruz early Thursday afternoon saying he had just flown to Mexico because he wanted to be “a good father” to his daughters, who “asked to go out with friends "because the school was" canceled for the week "because of the natural disaster.
Shortly before his flight back to Texas, Cruz offered comments to reporters at the Mexico airport, reiterating the topics from his office's statement.
Senator Ted Cruz at Cancun Airport:
"Yesterday my daughters asked if they could go on a trip with some friends and Heidi and I agreed, so I flew them down with them last night, dropped them off here, and now I'm going back to Texas." pic.twitter.com/5d8UwlmZWv
– The recount (@therecount) February 18, 2021
But there was more. On Thursday evening, text messages Heidi Cruz sent to a group of the Cruzes' neighbors went to the liberal group American Bridge and a number of news outlets. In them, Heidi Cruz notices that her house is “freezing” and says: “Can or does someone want to go for the week? We can go to Cancun, there is a direct flight at 445 and hotels with capacity. Seriously."
The authenticity of the text messages has been confirmed by the New York Times.
Upon his return to Texas, Cruz issued a press release chanting "Resign!" could be heard behind him …
Texas Senator Ted Cruz says it was "obviously a mistake" to go to Cancun.
You can hear protesters shout "Resign!" in the background. pic.twitter.com/FwA6Dsg4fv
– The recount (@therecount) February 19, 2021
… and then several television interviews, including a softball interview on Sean Hannity's Fox News show, in which Cruz continued to try to shift responsibility for his ill-conceived journey to his daughters and his desire to be a good father.
It should be noted that the U.S. Senate is on hiatus this week while Cruz's state is in crisis. A Dallas resident wrote the Dallas Morning News defending Cruz on that basis. He found that the Senate is out, he can afford it. … What exactly is the problem? "(Other right-wing experts similarly defended Cruz.)
But there are still things Cruz could do to help even if the Senate isn't in session. For example, the Democrat, whom he defeated in 2018 to keep his Senate seat, said Beto O’Rourke made more than 151,000 calls to seniors in Texas on Wednesday alone, asking for help to do more on Thursday.
We made over 151,000 calls to seniors in Texas tonight. One of our volumes spoke to a man who was stranded at home in Killeen with no electricity, hadn't eaten in 2 days, and took him to a warming center and a hot meal. Help us reach more people and join us tomorrow: https://t.co/WOLn2HCrm1
– Beto O & # 39; Rourke (@BetoORourke) February 18, 2021
Cruz's flight to Cancun came the day after he posted a tweet confirming the criticism he received for his 2019 tweets for mocking California when heat waves caused power outages there.
"Stay safe!" Cruz wrote.
And during a radio interview on Monday, Cruz urged voters to do the exact opposite of what he did.
"We saw 100 people lose their lives in Texas this week," said Cruz. "So don't risk it. Protect your family and just stay home and hug your kids."
Meanwhile, Twitter users surfaced on tweets Cruz posted less than three months ago when he attacked a Democratic politician for traveling to Mexico during the coronavirus pandemic while telling his constituents to stay home. Not only is Cruz guilty of precisely this, but his trip to Mexico – as it is while millions of his constituents are in dire need of help – is perhaps worse.