While Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was dealing with an embarrassing public relations disaster of his own making — flying to Cancún, Mexico, with his family while his home state was reeling from blackouts and water shutdowns amid frigid temperatures — his political adversary Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) was spearheading an effort to raise funds for those in dire need.
Ocasio-Cortez announced on Thursday that she was raising money for five nonprofit groups in Texas, including food banks, organizations that provide aid to aging Texans, and organizations that focus on helping homeless populations. Within hours, the Democratic congresswoman announced that donations had surpassed $1 million.
“We officially raised $1 million for Texas relief at 9:17pm,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote in a subsequent tweet. “100% of this relief is going straight to Texan food assistance, homelessness relief, elder care, and more.”
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Millions of Texans are presently dealing with the crisis that came about after the failure of the state’s electrical grid, which runs independently of federally regulated grids in the U.S. The failure of the grid resulted in millions being without power during an unusual winter cold front in the state. At least 7 million residents were under boil-water advisories on Thursday, and many communities were dealing with food shortages as well.
On Wednesday, as millions were without power, images of Cruz and his family departing from a Texas airport for a trip to Cancún started to circulate on social media. After facing an avalanche of outrage online, Cruz, who was originally planning to stay in Mexico until Saturday, booked a flight back to the U.S. on Thursday morning, pinning the blame on his daughters for his decision to flee the state in its moment of crisis.
“With school cancelled 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,” Cruz said in a statement.
In a subsequent interview with a local ABC affiliate station, Cruz expounded on his excuse:
They said, ‘Look, let’s take a trip. Let’s go with some of our friends and let’s get out of here and let’s go somewhere warm. And [Cruz’s wife Heidi] and I said okay.
The Texas senator claimed the trip was intended to “take care of [his] family,” even as millions of other Texan families were struggling to do the same back in the state.
Some have noted the hypocrisy of Cruz taking a vacation during an emergency situation, as the lawmaker has been vocal about others who have acted similarly. He attacked the mayor of Austin, for example, for taking a trip to Cabo during the coronavirus pandemic last year. He’s also lashed out at former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who took a beach vacation on closed state land during a state government shutdown, and spoke out against former President Barack Obama for playing golf while in office.
“I think the President should actually stand up and do his job as commander-in-chief, should spend less time on the golf course and more time doing the job to which he was elected,” Cruz said of Obama in 2014.
This week wasn’t the first time, however, that Cruz has acted in a hypocritical way. While he’s been happy to criticize others for traveling during the COVID-19 crisis, Cruz himself took a vacation to Jamaica during the Independence Day weekend last year at a time when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had warned Americans to “avoid all nonessential international travel” due to the pandemic.
Texas was seeing an upswing in new cases of coronavirus in the month preceding Cruz’s vacation travels in July. The seven-day rate of new cases on June 1, 2020, being reported in the state was at 1,499 cases per day. By July 1, that rate had jumped to 7,070 cases per day.