UPDATE – 7/21, 3:58 p.m. EST: On Thursday morning, Sen. Ted Cruz addressed the fallout from Wednesday night’s controversial speech at the Republican National Convention, where the Texas Tea Party stalwart was both criticized and applauded for not explicitly endorsing the GOP presidential nominee.
Speaking to the Texas delegation in Cleveland, Cruz explained that his reason for not getting behind New York real-estate mogul, Donald Trump, was partially for personal reasons.
“I am not in the habit of supporting someone who attacks my wife and attacks my father,” Cruz said. “That pledge [to endorse the eventual GOP nominee] was not a blanket commitment that if you go and slander and attack Heidi, that I’m going to nonetheless come like a puppy dog and say, ‘Thank you very much for maligning my wife and maligning my father.’”
Cruz further reasoned that the speech took a positive tone, laying out the principles of a conservative vision for America. “I did not say a single negative word against Donald Trump,” Cruz said.
Texas Senator and 2016 primary contender Ted Cruz gave a controversial speech at the Republican National Convention Wednesday evening, appealing to grassroots conservatives with idealistic, “limited government” rhetoric, but failing to formally endorse the party’s presidential nominee.
The Tea Party firebrand mentioned Donald Trump’s name only once and instead told the audience toward the end of the address to “vote your conscience”, as floor delegates began to boo and shout for an endorsement of the New York businessman.
“We deserve leaders who stand for principal, who unite us all behind shared values, who cast aside anger for love,” Cruz said in his speech. “This is the standard we should expect from everybody. And, to those listening, please don’t stay home in November. If you love our country . . . stand, and speak, and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom, and to be faithful to the Constitution.”
The boos then got even louder as the New York delegation began to chant, “We want Trump!” Cruz’s wife, Heidi, was heckled with shouts of “Goldman Sachs!” and promptly escorted off the floor as her husband finished his remarks. Before the speech’s conclusion, Trump himself walked out to join his family in the audience, waving to delegates, in an attempt to upstage the defiant Lone Star State senator.
The fallout continued shortly thereafter, when Cruz met his wife and walked with security guards to the sky-box level, where the senator was assailed by Republican brass, including one state party chairman who was so enraged by that he had to be held back. Cruz was subsequently denied access to GOP billionaire donor and Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson’s box suite, embarrassed to be seen with the man that just caused an uproar.
Afterwards, Trump and campaign supporter Chris Christie cried foul, accusing Cruz of not honoring the “pledge” that all Republican presidential candidates signed in 2015, promising to support the eventual nominee.
A Cruz aide, however, said the senator “expected people not to approve,” and was “not surprised at the reaction.” Cruz adviser, Jason Johnson, even said that Trump had called the Texas senator earlier in the week, and was told by Cruz himself that he would not be receiving an endorsement, but instead was giving a speech to “lay out the principles we can all unite around.”
In a short post-speech interview, Cruz defended his remarks, saying he “had to speak the truth. It’s going to be an interesting couple of days. The chips will fall where they may.”
Cruz confidant, anti-Trump delegate and fellow Tea Party conservative, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), said the GOP nominee has to pay more lip service to the cause of constitutionalism and limited government to unite the party.
“Federalism and separation of powers — if he focuses on that, he brings a lot of conservatives like me who haven’t been sold yet,” Lee said. “(Trump) needs to make that a distinct part of his message.”
The answer to Sen. Lee’s concerns may come shortly, as Donald Trump will accept the party’s nomination and address the RNC convention in prime time, Thursday evening.
Watch the conclusion of Cruz’s remarks, Trump’s appearance and the reaction by convention delegates, below.
[CNN] [Politico] [Reuters] [ABC News] [Photo courtesy Justin Sullivan/Getty Images via Slate]