NEW YORK (AP) – Texas Senator Ted Cruz had despair written all over his face.
The conservative ideologue and potential 2024 presidential contender appeared on Fox News Channel’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight” Thursday to apologize for depicting the January 6 uprising. as “a violent terrorist attack on the Capitol” the day before, the eve of its anniversary.
“The way I phrased things yesterday was careless and downright silly,” Cruz told Carlson, a powerful voice in Republican politics whose show is among the most watched on cable news.
Cruz insisted he had spoken badly, though he has consistently described the mutiny by Donald Trump supporters as a terrorist attack in interviews and statements over the past year.
But Cruz’s capitulation to outrage from the GOP’s far-right flank underscores the power he has increasingly over leading Republican politicians and the influence of conservative TV hosts like Carlson, who reach millions of viewers every night. And it shows how lawmakers like Cruz, who was once considered one of the most conservative voices in his party, now face pressure from a new hardline guard who came to power with the backing of Trump’s rank and file.
Cruz has been increasingly open about his interest in mounting another race for the Republican presidential nomination, noting that historically “second place is almost always the next nominee.”
Carlson had used the show the night before to criticize Cruz for his “terrorist” comment. Others huddled.
“It’s an embarrassment to Ted Cruz,” said Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, a first-term legislator and Trump supporter who has sold numerous conspiracy theories and was recently banned from Twitter for her anti-vaccination comments. He called Cruz’s initial comments “irresponsible” and disrespectful toward the “MAGA patriots.”
“I’m so sick of Ted Cruz,” echoed Trump ally Sebastian Gorka on Twitter.
Cruz, along with other Republican Party leaders, had previously described the events of January 6 as “terrorism” without pushback.
“The attack on the Capitol was a despicable act of terrorism and a shocking assault on our democratic system,” Cruz said in a statement issued by his office last Friday. “The January 6 terrorist attack on the Capitol was a dark moment in our nation’s history, and I fully support the ongoing police investigations into anyone involved,” he said on May 28.
Recently in December, in an interview with The Associated Press, Cruz said that on January 6, 2021, “we saw a terrorist attack on Capitol Hill.”
He went on to say that “anyone who commits a crime of violence must be prosecuted and that anyone who violently assaults a police officer must go to jail for a very long time. That’s true whether you’re on the right, left, or have no wings. “
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell described the attack in similar terms. “American citizens attacked their own government,” he told the Senate after he acquitted Trump in his impeachment. “They used terrorism to try to stop a specific domestic business that they didn’t like.”
There is nothing surprising in that characterization. The FBI defines domestic terrorism as “violent criminal acts committed by individuals and / or groups to further ideological goals derived from domestic influences, such as those of a political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature.” In the January 6 attack, Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in an effort to stop the peaceful transition of power and the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.
But many, especially on the right, have resisted attempts to label violence terrorism, especially when committed by white people.
Carlson, who has promoted the racist “Replacement Theory” that elites are trying to replace the majority of the white population with non-white immigrants, pressed Cruz on his characterization of the assault on the Capitol.
“You called this a terrorist attack when it was in no way a terrorist attack,” he said. “That’s a lie. You told that lie on purpose and I wonder why you did it.”
Cruz said he had used the term for a long time to describe anyone who attacked the police.
“It was a mistake to use the word yesterday because the Democrats and the corporate media have politicized it,” he said.
Carlson and others have noted that no one in the assault has been charged with “terrorism.” But there is no federal law that establishes an explicit charge of domestic terrorism.
Federal law makes it a crime to provide material support to designated foreign terrorist groups, which gives law enforcement agencies the ability to arrest individuals who donate money or otherwise assist such organizations, even if they have not harmed anyone. nor have they threatened violence. There is no comparable law for people aligned with US-based extremist groups, who enjoy broad free speech protections.
Members of two extremist groups, Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, face the most serious conspiracy charges in the January 6 riot. Individual protesters have been charged with assault and other violent crimes for their attacks on law enforcement. More than 100 policemen were injured, some seriously.
Republicans have also opposed “insurrection” to describe the events of the day, because none of the rioters so far have been charged with treason or sedition, crimes that would fit an attempted insurrection.
Those charges are extremely rare. Prosecutors may be reluctant to file them due to their legal complexity and the difficulty in obtaining convictions. Historically, overzealousness in applying such charges has also discredited their use.
Associated Press writer Colleen Long contributed to this report from Washington.