Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was one of the most visible Republican congressional leaders in the effort to overturn the 2020 election results exactly one year ago today.
What a difference a year makes. Despite largely sticking to the right-wing line about election fraud and the challenging of the results being justified, Cruz is now coming under intense criticism from right-wing pundits—including Tucker Carlson—for remarks he made Wednesday referring to the Capitol riot as a “violent terrorist attack.”
Cruz made the comment during a Senate Rules and Administration Committee hearing on Wednesday. “We are approaching a solemn anniversary this week,” Cruz said.
“And it is an anniversary of a violent terrorist attack on the Capitol, where we saw the men and women of law enforcement demonstrate incredible courage, incredible bravery, risk their lives to defend the men and women who served in this Capitol,” he said.
Cruz was one of eight GOP senators who voted against certifying the election results in Pennsylvania and Arizona, hours after a mob of Trump supporters rioted the Capitol and delayed that certification. But this is not the first time Cruz has condemned the attack on the Capitol; two days after Jan. 6, in an interview with a Houston television station, Cruz referred to it as a “terrorist attack.”
On Wednesday night, Fox News host Tucker Carlson scolded Cruz and other unnamed Republicans for “repeating the talking points [Attorney General] Merrick Garland has written for them,” and then played the clip of Cruz’s remarks.
“Now let’s be honest: Everyone who’s conservative appreciates Ted Cruz…he’s legitimately smart,” Carlson said. “He doesn’t use a single word by accident. Every word Ted Cruz uses he uses intentionally. He’s a lawyer.”
“Of all the things January 6 was, it was definitely not a ‘violent terrorist attack.’ It wasn't an insurrection,” Carlson continued. “Was it a riot? Sure. It was not a violent terrorist attack. Sorry. So why are you telling us that it was, Ted Cruz? And why are none of your Republican friends who are supposed to be representing us and all of the people who’ve been arrested during this purge saying anything?”
“What the hell’s going on here?” said Carlson, who last year produced an unhinged “documentary” about Jan. 6 which boosted the conspiracy theory that the insurrection was a false flag planted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Carlson wasn’t the only prominent conservative to criticize Cruz.
Sen. Josh Hawley, who also helped lead the attempt to overturn the election results, wrote a Fox News op-ed earlier this week downplaying the riot, saying that while “those who committed crimes on January 6 should be prosecuted…those who rioted and burned and looted in cities around the nation in the name of ‘social justice’ should be as well.”
“What interested the Left about the riot on January 6 was that it could be connected to Trump supporters, conservatives,” Hawley wrote. “They proclaimed conservatives a threat to public safety and marshaled their institutional power to drive political opposition into silence.”
It would be a mistake to think that Cruz’s comments indicate a clean break from the most extreme elements of the GOP, however. Cruz suggested on his podcast last week that if Republicans win the House of Representatives later this year, they could impeach President Joe Biden “whether it’s justified or not” in retaliation for the twice-impeachment of former President Donald Trump because “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”
“That's not how impeachment is meant to work. But I think the Democrats crossed that line,” Cruz said in the podcast episode released last Friday. “I think there'll be enormous pressure on a Republican House to begin impeachment proceedings.”
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