After facing vicious backlash from fellow conservatives over his use of the word “terrorist” for pro-Trump supporters that attacked the US Capitol on Jan. 6 last year, Senator Ted Cruz walked back his comments on Thursday.
The Texas Republican, appearing on a Fox News show with host Tucker Carlson, attempted to douse the flames of anger and outrage, dismissing his own remarks “sloppy” and “frankly dumb”.
Cruz insisted that he was referring only to the rioters who stormed the US Capitol and attacked police on that fateful day, even as Carlson grilled him intensely and questioned his intentions.
“You told that lie on purpose, and I’m wondering why you did,” Carlson said.
“For a decade, I have referred to people who violently assault police officers as terrorists. I’ve done so over and over and over again,” Cruz said in response, in an attempt to do damage-control.
Yesterday, I used a dumb choice of words and unfortunately a lot of people are misunderstanding what I meant. pic.twitter.com/vWCjFnA4t3— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) January 7, 2022
His appearance on the pro-Republican news network came a day after Carlson slammed the Texas senator for his choice of words during a Wednesday US Senate committee hearing on the Jan. 6 insurrection, which coincided with the first anniversary of the infamous incident.
During the hearing, Cruz acknowledged the “solemn anniversary” of what he called a “violent terrorist attack on the Capitol where we saw the men and women of law enforcement … risk their lives to defend the men and women who serve in this Capitol.”
Lashing out at the Republican, Carlson on Wednesday said it was not a violent terrorist attack.
“Of all the things that Jan. 6 was, it was definitely not a violent terrorist attack," Carlson said Wednesday night. "It wasn't an insurrection. Was it a riot? Sure. It was not a violent terrorist attack — sorry!"
Cruz, who finished second behind Donald Trump in the race for US presidency in 2016, is one of the strong contenders from the Republican Party to challenge Democrats in 2024.
“What I was referring to are the limited number of people who engaged in violent attacks against police officers. I think you and I both agree that if you assault a police officer, you should go to jail," Cruz said on Thursday, attempting to clarify his previous remarks.
"I wasn't saying the thousands of peaceful protesters supporting Donald Trump are somehow terrorists. I wasn’t saying the millions of patriots across the country supporting Trump are terrorists,” he added.
In a bid to prove his Republican presidential, Cruz reminded Carlson that he was one of the Republican senators who rejected the 2020 presidential election results.
“So of course, it would be ridiculous for me to be saying that the people standing up and protesting to follow the law were somehow terrorists. I was talking about people who commit violence against cops,” Cruz hastened to add.
“That being said, Tucker, I agree with you. It was a mistake to say that yesterday, and the reason is what you just said, which is we have now had a year of Democrats and the media twisting words and trying to say that all of us are terrorists. Trying to say you are a terrorist, I am a terrorist.”
Cruz’s remarks drew the ire of many Republican aides of former US President Donald Trump.
Sebastian Gorka, a former deputy assistant to Trump who is currently fighting a subpoena, said he was “so done” with the Texas senator.
Some Democrats welcomed Cruz's remarks but called out his hypocrisy for voting against certifying the 2020 election results that confirmed Trump’s defeat to Joe Biden.
Sen. Alex Padilla, a Democrat from California, said he appreciated Cruz's recognition of the attack.
"We should also agree on a bipartisan basis to ask some questions: Was it organic and spontaneous, or was it organized and premeditated?" Padilla asked.
However, after Cruz walked back his comments on Thursday, he was blasted by journalists and political pundits online for his blatant hypocrisy.
I have never seen a politician grovel as pathetically as @tedcruz does is this interview. He looks like a teenager begging daddy not to ground him. Say what you want about Trump, but he’s at least smart enough to know that you aren’t winning votes when you look this weak. https://t.co/r2CgbNf7aM— Tommy Vietor (@TVietor08) January 7, 2022
This is really sad. Tucker has more power over Ted Cruz than his constituents pic.twitter.com/aVgpwZgM21— Acyn (@Acyn) January 7, 2022
The best part of Cruz’s self flagellation is that it was clearly done with the aim of avoiding being ‘cancelled’ by the right. https://t.co/ADYwhkrGdU— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) January 7, 2022
Federal prosecutors in DC have categorized more than 150 Jan. 6 cases as being "domestic terrorism" in their internal case-tracking reports. https://t.co/HXgG8kvVgO— Brad Heath (@bradheath) January 7, 2022
Biden, in his speech at the US Capitol on Thursday, accused his predecessor of posing "a continuing threat to democracy” and of creating a "web of lies" to pursue "power over principle.”
"We must be absolutely clear about what is true and what is lie. Here's the truth: A former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election. He's done so because he values power over principle," Biden said.
Hitting back, Trump denounced Biden’s remarks as a “political theater” and of “dividing America”.
"This political theater is all just a distraction for the fact Biden has completely and totally failed," Trump said in a statement on Thursday.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell also released a statement, calling Jan. 6, 2021, "a dark day for Congress and our country.”