Texas senator Ted Cruz has claimed he was just being “a good dad” for taking a controversial family vacation in a sunny Mexican beach resort as millions in his home state were freezing in a deadly winter storm that left residents without power or water.
The firebrand Republican was returning to Houston from Cancun yesterday following furious criticism of his trip and confirmation from the city’s police chief that officers were employed to help speed his passage through the airport before his outward flight the day before.
“With school cancelled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends,” Mr Cruz, who has two young daughters, said in a statement.
“Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon.”
The statement followed reports that Mr Cruz had originally booked the return leg of his “long-planned vacation” for tomorrow, but brought forward the flight by two days as the trip became public knowledge and the backlash began.
The controversy came as Texas residents continued to suffer a major new winter storm dumping more snow on the state yesterday before sweeping off east towards the Atlantic coast states and easing conditions a little.
But officials warned Texans not to expect respite from sub-zero temperatures until at least today, with residents who have been without water, power or heat for days facing further delays to the restoration of their supplies, and some badly affected hospitals evacuating patients to other facilities.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the state’s power grid, said on Wednesday it had made “significant progress”, with little more than 500,000 customers still in the dark, down from a peak of 4.4 million.
Mr Cruz’s sudden return to Texas came after a barrage of criticism and allegations of hypocrisy from political opponents, and as mocking hashtags began to trend on Twitter.
They included #CancunCruz and #FlyinTed, in recognition of Donald Trump’s famous “Lyin’ Ted” nickname for the senator during their acrimonious campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
Dinesh D’Souza, a prominent conservative commentator, attempted to defend Mr Cruz in an extraordinary tweet that claimed the trip somehow benefited Texans.
“What could Ted Cruz do if he were here in Texas? I’m hard-pressed to say,” he wrote. “If he’s in Cancun, that means he’s not using up valuable resources of energy, food and water that can now be used by someone else. This is probably the best thing he could do for the state right now.”
The trip even came up at the afternoon White House press briefing, with US President Joe Biden’s spokesman, Jen Psaki, criticising the Republican politician.
“I don’t have any updates on the exact location of Senator Ted Cruz nor does anyone at the White House,” she said.
“But our focus is on working directly with leadership in Texas and the surrounding states on addressing the winter storm and the crisis at hand, the many people across the state who are without power, without the resources they need, and we expect that would be the focus of anyone in the state or surrounding states who was elected to represent them.” (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd 2021)