Once upon a time, it was considered noncontroversial for elected officials to speak out against anti-government extremists, particularly the kind whose actions left people dead and severely injured—and especially if the people they attacked were law enforcement officers. In fact, you might say that condemning anyone who even entertained the idea of hurting “boys in blue” was a requirement for Republicans, who have long insisted they are the party of “law and order.”
Now, of course, things are a little different. Oh sure, the GOP still loves to claim Democrats hate the police and that its members are the only ones fighting crime, but if a situation should arise wherein violence is waged in the name of Donald Trump, well, it’s all fine and good for the right. Better than good—GREAT. That’s the position many Republican lawmakers and right-wing commentators have taken regarding the events of January 6, 2021, and for the most part, Senator Ted Cruz has taken it too, proudly reminding people that he objected to the certification of Joe Biden’s win and helped spread the lie that the election was stolen from Trump, which helped foment the attack on the Capitol.
Unfortunately for Cruz, the anniversary of January 6 apparently caused him to get caught up in the moment and say something approaching the truth about what happened that day. Speaking from the Senate on Wednesday, he told colleagues, “We are approaching a solemn anniversary this week, and it is an anniversary of a violent terrorist attack on the Capitol, where we saw the men and women of law enforcement demonstrate incredible courage, incredible bravery, risk their lives to defend the men and women who serve in this Capitol.”
That was apparently a bridge too far for Fox News’ Tucker Carlson—who has spent the last year spreading misinformation about January 6 and produced a conspiracy-theory-filled “docuseries” about the day. Carlson made it clear on his January 5 show that he was extremely displeased with the senator from Texas, telling viewers, “[Cruz] described January 6 as a violent terrorist attack. Of all the things that January 6 was, it was definitely not a violent terrorist attack. It wasn’t an insurrection. Was it a riot? Sure. It was not a violent terrorist attack. Sorry. So why are you telling us that it was, Ted Cruz? And why are none of your Republican friends who are supposed to be representing us and all the people who have been arrested during this purge saying anything? What the hell’s going on here?”
Being called out by Carlson no doubt caused Cruz to metaphorically and possibly literally shit his pants, because, as one foreign policy adviser put it, “a white supremacist TV host can now make or break a Republican’s career.” So on Thursday, he appeared on the show to beg for forgiveness.
From the start of the segment, Cruz was unambiguous about the fact that he had no issue trading whatever iota of dignity he might have had left to get back in the Fox host’s good graces. “Tucker, thank you for having me on,” he said. “When you aired your episode last night, I sent you a text shortly thereafter and said, listen, I’d like to go on, because the way I phrased things yesterday, it was sloppy and it was frankly dumb.”
But Carlson wasn’t going to let someone who’d briefly spoken ill of January 6 get off so easy. “I don’t buy that,” he told Cruz. “I’ve known you a long time, since before you went to the Senate. You were a Supreme Court contender. You take words as seriously as any man who’s ever served in the Senate, and every word—you repeated that phrase. I do not believe that you used that accidentally. I just don’t.”