Texas senator Ted Cruz said the reason he took a controversial vacation to Mexico on Wednesday while his state was in winter disaster conditions was because he was “wanting to be a good dad.”
In a statement released on Thursday, where he offers no apologies for the trip, Mr Cruz wrote, “With school cancelled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends. Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon.”
“My staff and I are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas,” he added.
Mr Cruz has been facing intense backlash across the state and country for the move, as hundreds of thousands of his constituents are without power and heat, and millions have been told to boil their tap water during a catastrophic wave of winter weather.
The Texas Democratic Party on Thursday called on Mr Cruz to resign.
He’s flying back to the US today, and was photographed in a Texas flag-themed face mask at the Cancún International Airport on Thursday. Mr Cruz was reportedly slated to stay in Mexico until Saturday before moving up his flight amid the growing scandal, and observers online noted his large suitcase, which could suggest he was planning on a longer stay.
The Texas senator, who had previously criticized liberal politicians who called on citizens to stay home but traveled during the pandemic, asked for police assistance while he was passing through the storm-gripped city of Houston on his way to Mexico earlier this week.
Beto O’Rourke, the former Texas congressman who challenged Mr Cruz in a Senate race in 2018, slammed the senator on MSNBC on Thursday, saying he “is vacationing in Cancun right now when people are literally freezing to death in the state that he was elected to represent and serve.”
Other Texas leaders weighed in as well.
Julián Castro, the former mayor San Antonio and former secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, tweeted on Thursday that the senator was missing out on playing a key role in disaster assistance by traveling.
“In crises like these, members of Congress play a critical role connecting their constituents to emergency services and assistance,” he wrote. “@tedcruz should be on the phone with federal agencies, not on a trip to Mexico.”
Texas congresswoman Veronica Escobar, a Democrat, linked her criticism of Mr Cruz to his early and influential support for trying to challenge the election results at the Capitol in January.
“As millions of Texans remain without power and don’t have access to clean water or food, @TedCruz has fled to Mexico for a beach vacation,” she wrote on Thursday on Twitter. “We knew he didn’t give a damn about our democracy. Now we know he doesn’t give a damn about Texas families freezing to death.”
Senator Cruz was able to find a few defenders.
Donald Trump Jr., the former president’s son, argued that a senator has less of role in addressing national disasters than local officials, writing on Twitter on Thursday that there is “a difference between a Governor and a Senator in terms of job description and what they can do for localized disasters. Optics is one thing but let’s be real here.”
Commentator Dinesh D’Souza argued on Thursday that being out of the state was “probably the best thing he could do” for Texas because he wouldn’t be using up resources.
“What could @tedcruz do if he were here in Texas? I’m hard-pressed to say,” Mr D’Souza wrote. “If he’s in Cancun, that means he’s not using up valuable resources of energy, food and water that can now be used by someone else. This is probably the best thing he could do for the state right now.”
On the conservative news outlet Newsmax, TW Shannon, CEO of Chickasaw Bank, argued much the same.
“I’m not so concerned about where ted cruz is traveling to,” he said. “In this day and time, we can communicate and we can get things done remotely, and perhaps if things are as bad in Texas as I have heard, it may be a better option do it remotely.”
Texas governor Greg Abbott has also faced calls to resign over his handling of the crisis, as snow hammers the state and has knocked out key utility services for hundreds of thousands of people.
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