Evidence gathered steadily overnight that Senator Ted Cruz of Texas — the state currently undergoing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis as a result of extreme winter weather, leaving millions of people without power, water, and access to food — flew to Cancún, Mexico, yesterday as his constituents faced freezing conditions, hundreds of thousands of them still without electricity. Now, it’s been officially confirmed by Cruz himself: He really went on vacation while Texas was in crisis. And although he tried to make his absence look like a quick, overnight trip, text messages obtained by the New York Times indicate the original plan may have been a long weekend at the Ritz-Carlton Cancún.
Rumors began circulating on Twitter that Cruz had left the country when a man looking very similar to him was spotted with his family at the Houston airport on Wednesday, then on a flight to Cancún, then at the Cancún airport. Users combed photos of the Cruz-like man, connecting his signature strange haircut, glasses, mask, and sneakers to other recent photos of Cruz taken in Washington, D.C.
Hours later, neither Cruz, who is typically prolific on Twitter, nor anyone from his team had confirmed or denied the fact that he had gone on an international vacation during one of the worst moments in his state’s history. It was then confirmed by multiple news outlets, including the New York Times, which also reported that a member of Cruz’s staff had contacted the Houston Police Department to provide “assistance” upon his arrival at the airport. Earlier today, a United Airlines upgrade list showed a “Cruz, R” (Cruz’s first name is Rafael) scheduled to return from Cancún to Houston.
But Cruz did not acknowledge the trip himself until this afternoon, when he issued an official statement that did not include an apology. In it, Cruz claimed that, with school canceled for the week, his daughters had “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,” he said. Cruz did not explicitly say that he had planned to fly back immediately, nor did he address the suitcase he was seen with in the airport, which certainly looked like it contained more than one night’s worth of belongings. He said nothing about the online furor.
NBC, however, subsequently reported that Cruz changed his itinerary early Thursday morning, switching his return trip from Saturday to today around 6 a.m. The Times then added that on Wednesday, the senator’s wife, Heidi, texted friends and neighbors in Houston with a “hastily” devised getaway plan. The Cruz household, Heidi reportedly informed her friends, was “FREEZING.”
“Anyone can or want to leave for the week?” she allegedly proposed. “We may go to Cancún,” she added. “Seriously.” The trip Heidi is said to have outlined included the details of a “direct flight” departing on Wednesday afternoon and a Sunday return trip, along with rates at the Ritz ($309 per night), where she assured everyone the family had stayed “many times” before. According to the Times, “no one appeared to bite.”
As of this evening, Cruz is back in Texas, and reportedly plans to “keep working” on restoring widespread heat and electricity outages. But still, it’s worth wondering how someone (ostensibly) tasked with taking care of the people living in his state could possibly choose this moment — with the death toll climbing past 20, with his constituents boiling water to drink and poisoning themselves by running their cars for warmth — to go on vacation. Never has his neglect of his office been so utterly, despicably literal.
That Cruz would choose now to go on a tropical vacation is appalling, but it’s not surprising. He is the embodiment of a political party with no discernible ideology left apart from the consolidation of power and profit at the expense of ordinary people — what’s happening in Texas is a direct result of decades of deregulation, privatization, and climate-change denial that Cruz has run on as a political candidate time and time again. There is no explanation for his behavior other than contempt for the Texans he is supposed to serve. The only real surprise here is that someone known for cowardice would be so brazen.
This post has been updated.