Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) gestures as he speaks to members of the media during the fifth day of the impeachment trial of former U.S. President Donald Trump, on charges of inciting the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, U.S., February 13, 2021.
Erin Scott | Reuters
Is Sen. Ted Cruz now going to be known as “Flying Ted”?
Social media erupted early Thursday with multiple photos purportedly showing a masked Cruz boarding a plane in Houston and then flying to Cancun, Mexico a day earlier even as millions of his fellow Texans froze because of historically low temperatures and widespread power outages.
Hours after thousands of posts on Twitter shared those photos, other images showed someone with the Republican’s last name and first initial of his legal first name — Rafael — standing by for a United Airlines flight from Cancun back to Houston that is scheduled to depart Thursday afternoon.
At the time, the temperature in Houston was just 34 degrees Fahrenheit. In Cancun, it was a balmy 84 degrees.
NBC News repeatedly reached out to Cruz’s office about the images, but has received no response.
The Houston Police Department told NBC News that Cruz’s staff contacted the department on Wednesday afternoon to assist Cruz in his arrival and movements through Houston International Airport, where there was a scheduled flight at 4:44 p.m. local time to Cancun.
Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat who lost a close Senate election to Cruz in 2018, blasted him during an interview Thursday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
Cruz “is vacationing in Cancun right now when people are literally freezing to death in the state that he was elected to represent and serve,” said O’Rourke, who for months in 2019 had campaign for the Democratic nomination for president.
Julian Castro, a former mayor of San Antonio, Texas, who also served as secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, tweeted:”In crises like these, members of Congress play a critical role connecting their constituents to emergency services and assistance.”
Cruz “should be on the phone with federal agencies, not on a trip to Mexico,” Castro wrote.
On Tuesday, Cruz had tweeted — in response to an article criticizing him for mocking California’s own power outages months ago — “I got no defense. A blizzard strikes Texas & our state shuts down. Not good.”
In December, Cruz had criticized Democratic officials who did not follow their own coronavirus pandemic restrictions, including Austin, Texas, Mayor Steve Adler, who himself flew to Mexico for his daughter’s wedding in November even as he urged Austin residents to stay home.
“Hypocrites. Complete and utter hypocrites,” Cruz wrote in his December 2 tweet.
Former President Donald Trump, while running against Cruz in the 2016 Republican presidential nomination contests, regularly derided him with the scornful nickname “Lying Ted.”
But Cruz later became an ardent Trump supporter, and last month unsuccessfully tried to get Congress to reject the confirmation of Joe Biden’s Electoral College victories in several states.
That confirmation process was interrupted Jan. 6 by the invasion of the Capitol complex by thousands of supporters of Trump. Five people, including a Capitol police office, died a result of that riot.