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Ted Cruz Really Wants to Make It Up to Republicans for Calling Capitol Rioters 'Violent Terrorists'

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has a long history of switching lanes on the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has a long history of switching lanes on the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Gage Skidmore
It might be an awful lot to ask of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, but the Texas Republican has an issue with consistency.

When Cruz appeared on Mark Levin’s Fox News program Sunday to promote his new book, Justice Corrupted: How the Left Weaponized Our Legal System, he returned to a subject over which he’d already been amply roasted: the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021.

Asked about the Capitol riot, Cruz claimed that anyone who described the events as an “insurrection” was parroting “complete political garbage.”

“Anyone who uses that word is engaged in partisan spin,” he added.

Later, he said, the Biden administration and the Department of Justice have “used the violent acts of a few to smear the tens of thousands of peaceful protesters who were in Washington on Jan. 6,” as well as the “tens of millions of conservatives and Trump voters across this country.”

Funny enough, Cruz has taken a different tack in the past — say, in the immediate wake of the Capitol riot. The day after the incident, the senator said former President Donald Trump’s rhetoric was “irresponsible” and “reckless.”

He went on to dub the riot “a terrorist attack” and insisted that “every one of those violent criminals who attacked the Capitol should be fully prosecuted.”

Down the road, ahead of the one-year anniversary, Cruz called the Capitol a “violent terrorist attack on the Capitol, where we saw the men and women of law enforcement demonstrate incredible courage, incredible bravery [and] risk their lives to defend the men and women who serve in this Capitol.”

Then came the about-face, of course. On the anniversary, Fox News host Tucker Carlson blasted Cruz for the “terrorist” comments a day earlier, a line of criticism that prompted the senator to come onto Carlson’s show and apologize.

As Carlson grilled him, Cruz expressed regret for his “sloppy phrasing.” He said, “What I was referring to are the limited number of people who engaged in violent attacks against police officers,” he said. (Up until that point, Cruz, of course, hadn’t made that distinction.)

“I wasn’t saying that thousands of peaceful protesters supporting Donald Trump are somehow terrorists,” he went on. “I wasn’t saying the millions of patriots across the country supporting President Trump are terrorists.”

"... frankly dumb." – Ted Cruz

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Carlson wasn’t buying it, and for good reason. Cutting off Cruz’s long-winded, circular explanation, the host said, “I guess I just don’t believe you.”

Cruz conceded that his comments were “frankly dumb.”

As far as the implicit suggestion that the phrase “terrorist attack” is a somehow less powerful condemnation than describing those events as an “insurrection,” Cruz might have some convincing to do. (In fact, many Republicans called the incident an insurrection at the time.)

In any case, Cruz’s flip-flop on the Capitol riot mirrors his U-turn on Trump. During the 2016 Republican presidential primary, Trump called Cruz’s wife ugly and suggested his father played a role in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

At the time, Cruz said, “This man is a pathological liar, he doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies … in a pattern that is straight out of a psychology textbook, he accuses everyone of lying.”

He added of Trump: “Whatever lie he’s telling, at that minute he believes it … the man is utterly amoral. … Donald is a bully … bullies don’t come from strength, they come from weakness.”

But when Cruz appeared on The View on Monday, he tried to explain away his 2016 comments. Once Cruz lost that primary, he said, he had a “responsibility” to his constituents.
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Patrick Strickland is the former news editor at the Dallas Observer. He's worked as a senior reporter at Al Jazeera English. His reporting has appeared in the New York Review of Books, The Guardian, Politico EU and The New Republic, among others.

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