Sen. Ted Cruz spoke a few words of inconvenient truth on Wednesday, and for that sin, on Thursday night he went on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show for a round of ritual humiliation. It was perhaps the most pathetic groveling Cruz has ever done publicly, and that’s saying something for a man who eagerly embraced Donald Trump after Trump insulted his wife’s looks.
On Wednesday, Cruz called the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol a “violent terrorist attack.” It was, and that’s not the first time Cruz has used such language: In the immediate aftermath of the insurrection, he called it “a despicable act of terrorism.” He called it “a terrorist attack” in a Jan. 8 tweet, and in an interview that day. Even months later, in May 2021, he again called it a “terrorist attack.” And he was right every single one of those times. But when he used that language in January 2022, he quickly learned that he was way, way out of step with the official Republican cover-up, and Carlson was not going to let it slide.
After Carlson blasted Cruz on his Wednesday night show, Cruz asked to appear on Thursday’s show, where he must have known he would be berated again. And he was. And in classic Cruz fashion, he shamelessly groveled for forgiveness.
“The way I phrased things yesterday—it was sloppy, and it was, frankly, dumb,” Cruz said of the absolutely true words he had used repeatedly before. But absolution wasn’t coming.
”I don’t buy that,” Carlson said. “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. I don’t buy that.” Cruz, after all, is an accomplished lawyer who presumably chooses his public words carefully. And so it went: Cruz tried to weasel his way out of the thing he said and Carlson laid into him for it, because the correct Republican message is now that Jan. 6 was no big deal and no one should act like it was. Check this out:
Despite the tongue-lashing and the chyrons, Cruz tweeted out the interview along with a thread recapping his new story: “Yesterday, I used a dumb choice of words and unfortunately a lot of people are misunderstanding what I meant,” he opened. “I was NOT calling the thousands of peaceful protestors on Jan 6 terrorists. I would never do so; I have repeatedly, explicitly said the OPPOSITE—denouncing the Democrats’ shameful efforts to do so & to try to paint every Trump voter in America as ‘terrorists’ & ‘insurrectionists.’”
He continued, “I was ONLY talking about the limited number of people who committed violent assaults on police officers. For over a decade, I’ve referred to those who violently attack police officers as terrorists. If you assault a cop you should go to jail.”
He concluded: “The snippet from yesterday didn’t include my passionate & repeated defense of the patriots and peaceful protestors supporting President Trump. I’m sorry that that 20-second clip led so many to misunderstand what I was saying.”
This was the explanation Carlson repeatedly didn’t buy, but it was also the apology Carlson had demanded—and gotten—for MAGA-world. But whatever you think Cruz really meant or really thinks, what’s clear is that Carlson is in charge here. Carlson says that Jan. 6 was no big deal—it “barely rates as a footnote,” he said Thursday night in refusing to cover President Joe Biden’s speech—and that Democrats are unfairly using it to malign Republicans. Therefore that’s the story, and Cruz will stick to it, even at the cost of personal humiliation.