Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz was denounced online after being caught flying out of the state as hundreds of thousands of residents remained without power and water for sunnier climates.
Photographs placing Cruz at the Houston airport began surfacing on Twitter on the evening of February 17 2021, saying Cruz was on a flight bound for Cancún, Mexico:
— Juan (@Juan_Gomez18) February 18, 2021
Did Obama Issue an Executive Order to Strip Texas of Statehood?Did Obama Issue an Executive Order ...
— Devin Nunes’s Achilles Heel (@clarekelly007) February 18, 2021
Caught tonight! @TedCruz fleeing to CANCUN while his home state freezes with no running water or electricity
— Make it Rain ☔️🎸 (@Trx1000) February 18, 2021
— Sawyer Hackett (@SawyerHackett) February 18, 2021
As the Dallas Morning News reported, the photographs prompted hashtags like #CancunTed and #FlyinTed to spread around the platform, even as commenters noted that Democrat Beto O’Rourke — who narrowly lost to Cruz in a 2018 Senate election — was not only remaining in the state but taking part in relief efforts.
“We made over 151,000 calls to senior citizens in Texas tonight,” O’Rourke posted on his own Twitter account. “One of our [volunteers] talked to a man stranded at home w/out power in Killeen, hadn’t eaten in 2 days, got him a ride to a warming center and a hot meal.”
We made over 151,000 calls to senior citizens in Texas tonight. One of our vols talked to a man stranded at home w/out power in Killeen, hadn’t eaten in 2 days, got him a ride to a warming center and a hot meal. Help us reach more people, join us tomorrow: https://t.co/WOLn2HCrm1
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) February 18, 2021
O’Rourke also posted lists of resources for communities across the state:
Call 512-305-4233 for warming center & 211 for transportation
Volunteer w/ ADR: https://t.co/7FIUgK8RHV
Austin folks: please add to this thread!
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) February 18, 2021
The story was further corroborated when Houston police confirmed to ABC News that officers were dispatched to guard him at the airport prior to deprture.
“Cruz’s staff contacted HPD personnel at IAH on Wednesday,” reporter Ben Siegel posted on Twitter. “[They] requested assistance upon the Senator’s arrival at the airport. HPD officers monitored his movements through the terminal.”
"Cruz’s staff contacted HPD personnel at IAH on Wednesday … and requested assistance upon the Senator’s arrival at the airport."
"HPD officers monitored his movements through the terminal."
— Ben Siegel (@bensiegel) February 18, 2021
A police spokesperson also told NBC News, “[Cruz’s staff] reached out to us, let us know that he was going to be arriving and could we assist, so upon his arrival to the Houston airport we monitored his movements.”
NBC News reporter Vaughn Hillyard posted a statement from Ted Cruz saying that he flew out of the state at the request of his daughters:
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. We want our power back, our water on, and our homes warm. My team and I will continue using all our resources to keep Texans informed and safe.
— Vaughn Hillyard (@VaughnHillyard) February 18, 2021
Reuters photography editor Corinne Perkins posted a photograph of Cruz carrying luggage inside the Cancun International Airport:
Senator Ted Cruz carries his luggage at the Cancun International Airport before boarding his plane back to the U.S., in Cancun, Mexico. Photo by Stringer pic.twitter.com/KKDtldAXoE
— corinne_perkins (@corinne_perkins) February 18, 2021
Cruz was spotted leaving Texas a day after he said in a radio interview that his own home had not lost electricity.
“If you can stay home, don’t go out on the roads, don’t risk the ice,” he added. “Don’t risk it. Keep your family safe, and just stay home and hug your kids.”
Washington Post reporter JM Rieger posted video of Cruz speaking to an NBC News/Telemundo video crew at the Cancún airport. However, in this interview Cruz contradicted his earlier statements.
“Millions of Texans have lost power, lost heat, and been hurt,” he said before claiming: “Our family was among them — we had no heat, no power. Yesterday my daughters asked if they could take a trip with some friends and Heidi and I agreed, so I flew down with them last night, dropped them off here and now I’m headed back to Texas … to try to get the power on.”
Ted Cruz to NBC News/Telemundo at the Cancun airport:
“Yesterday my daughters asked if they could take a trip with some friends and Heidi and I agreed, so I flew down with them last night, dropped them off here and now I’m headed back to Texas … to try to get the power on." pic.twitter.com/VZugHafnzq
— JM Rieger (@RiegerReport) February 18, 2021
But Cruz had told radio host Joe Pagliarulo, “Thankfully my home, we didn’t lose power. So right now we’ve got a bunch of the neighborhood kids all over playing with our girls ’cause their parents lost power and our house was lucky. We’ve got kids running up and down the stairs right now.”
Cruz also took his apparent vacation in the face of an ongoing pandemic in the U.S. — something he attacked Steve Adler, mayor of the state capital of Austin, for doing in December 2020.
“Hypocrites. Complete and utter hypocrites,” Cruz posted at the time. “And don’t forget [Adler] who took a private jet with eight people to Cabo and WHILE IN CABO recorded a video telling Austinites to ‘stay home if you can…this is not the time to relax.”
Hypocrites. Complete and utter hypocrites.
And don't forget @MayorAdler who took a private jet with eight people to Cabo and WHILE IN CABO recorded a video telling Austinites to "stay home if you can…this is not the time to relax." pic.twitter.com/KSvkiwxgga
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) December 2, 2020
According to poweroutage.us, which aggregates data on utility usage, around 494,000 users across Texas still lacked power as of the early afternoon of February 18 2021.
KHOU-TV reporter Matt Dougherty posted footage of Cruz making his way back into the Houston airport — once again escorted by police:
— Matt Dougherty (@MattKHOU) February 18, 2021
Updated 10:06 a.m. February 18 2021. Updated with further confirmation by Houston police that they assisted Cruz at the airport prior to his departure for Mexico.
Updated 10:25 a.m. February 18 2021. Updated with further confirmation from Sen. Ted Cruz.
Updated 1:37 p.m. February 18 2021. Updated with further comments from Cruz.