Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas made headlines this week for being photographed in the Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport, where he boarded an airplane to Cancún with his wife and children.
Reactions to the photographs were instantaneous, with people taking to Twitter to bash Cruz. Less than 24 hours after Cruz had departed and landed in Cancún, he was back in Texas, but he was already facing overwhelming criticism for his decision to plan the vacation just as winter storms were devastating the state. The winter storms in Texas left millions of citizens without power and safe drinking water, and there have been at least 30 recorded deaths at the time of writing this article.
The senator’s press team released the following statement from Cruz: “Like millions of Texans, our family lost heat and power too. With school canceled for the week, our girls 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. My staff and I are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas.”
Many on Twitter and other social media and news platforms were not convinced, noting Cruz’s black suitcase and oversized canvas tote bag seen in photos and videos that circulated around the internet.
As information about Cruz’s trip to Cancún was quickly revealed, Ted Cruz’s return flight back to Houston was rebooked for the morning after his initial flight to Cancún. His return from Cancún was documented heavily by reporters and photographers.
About 7 million Texans were ordered to boil their tap water during the record low temperatures that swept the state. The storm froze and ruptured pipes, and caused enormous damage to infrastructure across the state.
New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez worked to raise about $5 million to help those in Texas. The money that AOC raised went to the Houston Food Bank, Family Eldercare, Feeding Texas, The Bridge Homeless Recovery Center, Corazon Ministries, North Texas Food Bank, Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley, Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, and Central Texas Food Bank.
There have been critiques of Cruz’s actions from both Republicans and Democrats. According to the Associated Press, “The trip drew criticism from leaders in both parties and was seen as potentially damaging to his future political ambitions.”
Texas GOP Chair Allen West—when asked whether or not Cruz’s travel was appropriate—stated: “That’s something that he has to answer to his constituents about.” West also went on to say, “I’m here trying to take care of my family and look after my friends and others that are still without power. That’s my focus.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, “I don’t have any updates on the exact location of Sen. Ted Cruz nor does anyone at the White House.” She also reported that President Biden’s administration is focused on working with Texas leaders and states around Texas in addressing the crisis.
On Saturday, Feb. 20, Cruz was seen loading water into Texas residents’ cars, and pictures were posted on his Twitter with the hashtag #TexasStrong. There was backlash from constituents on social media after Cruz’s photos of handing out water were posted, because Sen. Cruz was not following health guidelines for those that traveled outside of the U.S. The responses to the photos of Cruz handing out water on Saturday and helping to serve barbecue to first responders on that Sunday were not kind to the senator. Responses called for him to quarantine for seven days, as is federal guideline for anyone who traveled outside of the country.
As of Feb. 22, over 8 million people in Texas are still under boil water notices. Utilities and emergency agencies are operating water distribution centers across the state, and many who live in Dallas-Fort Worth and other parts of Northern Texas are relying on those outlets for clean drinking water.