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Cruz Tries Wooing New Yorkers While Feuding With the City's Mayor and NYPD Commissioner

After Mayor Bill de Blasio and Commissioner Bill Bratton blasted his call for Muslim neighborhoods to be "secured," Ted Cruz criticized the mayor for ending the NYPD's controversial monitoring of Muslim communities.

by Olivia Becker
Mar 24 2016, 10:52am

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

In New York, it's generally a risky move to be fighting with the city's two most powerful men on the same day you arrive for a campaign rally — but apparently not if you're Ted Cruz.

When Republican presidential hopeful arrived in Manhattan for an event on Wednesday, he was already clashing with both New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Bill Bratton, the city's police commissioner.

The beef started less than 24 hours before Cruz got to the Big Apple when, in response to Tuesday's terror attacks in Brussels, he said, "We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized."

The remark provoked an almost immediate backlash from de Blasio and Bratton at a joint press conference on Tuesday, where they essentially told the Texas senator to shove it.

"It's reprehensible," the mayor said. "His comments are not about safety and security. It's demagoguery. We have 900 Muslim-American officers in the NYPD. We have peace loving, law-abiding Muslim-Americans in neighborhoods all across New York City — they should be respected like all other members of our communities."

"To paint an entire community with that brush is absolutely counterproductive," he added. "It's immoral. It doesn't conform with American values."

Bratton agreed.

"The statements he made today is why he's not going to become president of this country," he said. "We don't need a president that doesn't respect the values that form the foundation of this country."

Related: Ted Cruz's Biggest Challenge: To Know Him Is to Hate Him

The commissioner continued this line of attack on Wednesday when asked about the remark in an appearance on CBS This Morning.

"He doesn't know the hell what he's talking about, to be frank with you. I took great offense at that statement," Bratton said. "Ironically, when he's running around here, we'll probably have a few Muslim officers guarding him."

When shown the clip of Bratton's remark during his own appearance on the program, Cruz appeared to dismiss Bratton as the mayor's lackey.

"It's not surprising that the Democratic political henchmen of Mayor de Blasio are coming after me," he said.

Cruz made it a point to criticize de Blasio for ending the NYPD's controversial practice of covertly monitoring Muslim communities and mosques in New York for a decade after the September 11 attacks. The rationale for the mass spying program was to root out possible al Qaeda cells and terrorist activity in order to prevent future attacks.

"New York City under Mayor Bloomberg had a program that focused on [and] worked proactively with the Muslim community to stop radicalization, to prevent attacks from radical Islamic terrorism before they occur," he said. "Mayor de Blasio came in and decided political correctness mattered more than keeping people safe. He disbanded the program."

The NYPD had previously claimed that the program stopped 14 potential terrorist attacks, but that number has since been debunked by the investigative reporting outlet ProPublica, which revealed that the surveillance program actually stopped zero terrorist plots. De Blasio disbanded the program in 2014 after civil liberties groups raised questions about its constitutionality. Bratton himself dismissed the old claims when asked about them on CBS.

"Not one single actionable piece of information came out of that," he said. "It didn't work."

Related: Ted Cruz Calls for Crackdown on 'Muslim Neighborhoods' in the US

Cruz didn't back down when the program's ineffectiveness was pointed out to him.

"It is true that the de Blasio political henchmen say that," he said. "It is also true that the NYPD said it provided valuable intelligence."

The dispute seemed to color the rest of the senator's visit. During a rare campaign event in New York that was held at the Women's National Republican Club in midtown Manhattan, he said, "If Mayor de Blasio ever holds a press conference saying, 'I agree with Ted,' that will be the instant I hang it all up," prompting cheers from the crowd.

"Senator Cruz will never apologize for making it a priority to make Americans safe," Cruz spokesperson Catherine Frazier told VICE News.

But de Blasio and Bratton are hardly the only New Yorkers who Cruz has managed to piss off. He made an enemy of many proud residents of the city earlier this year when he disparaged "New York values" during a Republican debate in January. Cruz was referring to his rival, Donald Trump, holding views that were "socially liberal, pro-gay marriage, pro-abortion, focused on money and the media." The comment instantly provoked outrage and a vicious defense of the city from both political parties.

Even if Cruz hadn't made his "New York values" comment, he is still not expected to do very well there or in the other northeastern primary states voting this spring. His base is largely made up of evangelical and socially conservative voters who are concentrated in the south and midwest. What's more, New York has literally been plastered with Trump's name for years while Cruz is still an unfamiliar figure to many.

Catherine Lenihan and Lila Brounis before Ted Cruz took the stage. (Photo by Olivia Becker/VICE News)

Unsurprisingly, Wednesday's event in Manhattan had a considerably more muted tone than Cruz's typical campaign stops elsewhere in the country. The room where it was taking place had large crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, gold drapes, and about 150 men and women dressed in suits and pearls quietly sitting in rows of chairs.

Catherine Lenihan and Lila Brounis, both former presidents of the National Women's Republican Club, were sitting in the front row. Neither of them had seen Cruz speak before, and both shrugged when asked if they were supporting him.

"We'll see after this," Lenihan said politely.

Another woman at the event who gave her name as Michelle said she was also undecided about Cruz. She liked his proposal for patrolling Muslim neighborhoods because she trusted law enforcement enough to know how to carry out such a practice without infringing on civil liberties.

"If they think they should [be surveilled], then I think they should too," she said.

Not all of the New Yorkers in attendance at the campaign stop are undecided. Lawrence Glynn, a lawyer, said he's been interested in Cruz since he first ran for the Senate in 2012, though Wednesday was first time he was seeing him in person. When asked how many fans Cruz has in New York, Glynn laughed.

"They're all in this room," he quipped.

Follow Olivia Becker on Twitter: @obecker928

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