December 6, 2022

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As Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) attended a vigil Wednesday for the victims of the massacre in Uvalde, Tex., he stormed away from an interview after he was asked by a British journalist why mass shootings happen “only in America.”

Cruz joined Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and other local and state leaders at a vigil for the 19 children and two adults killed in the Tuesday mass shooting at Robb Elementary School. Cruz, who is among the Republicans vehemently opposed to proposals from Democrats on expanding background checks on gun sales, has called for increased safety in schools and has condemned “political posturing” in the aftermath of the attack. He is also the lawmaker whose campaigns or political action committees have accepted the most money from the gun rights lobby, according to the nonprofit OpenSecrets.

During an interview with British Sky News reporter Mark Stone, Cruz, who was seen hugging and meeting with those at the vigil, was asked whether this was the moment to reform gun laws. Cruz responded by saying, “You know, it’s easy to go to politics.”

“But it’s important, it’s at the heart of the issue,” Stone replied, according to a video of the interview viewed more than 1 million times as of Thursday morning.

State and local lawmakers on both sides of the aisle commented on the events surrounding a mass school shooting in Uvalde, Tex. On May 24. (Video: Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)

From there, the two had a tense back-and-forth about gun reform laws.

“I get that that’s where the media likes to go,” Cruz said.

The Sky News reporter replied that that was not the case, saying many of the people he spoke with at the vigil also had gun control on their minds.

“The proposals from the Democrats and the media inevitably, when some violent psychopath murders people …” Cruz said, before he was cut off by Stone. The journalist said that the alleged shooter was “a violent psychopath who’s able to get a weapon so easily — an 18-year-old with two AR-15s.”

The senator ignored him and continued: “If you want to stop violent crime, the proposals the Democrats have — none of them would have stopped this.”

Then Stone asked, “Why does this only happen in your country? …. Why only in America? Why is this American exceptionalism so awful?”

That’s when Cruz fired back: “You know, I’m sorry you think American exceptionalism is awful. You’ve got your political agenda. God love you.”

As he attempted to walk away, Stone said he just wanted “to understand why you do not think that guns are the problem.”

“It is just an American problem,” the journalist said to Cruz.

At the end of the exchange, Cruz again ignored the journalist’s question and accused Stone of pushing propaganda before walking away.

“Why is it that people come from all over the world to America? Because it’s the freest, most prosperous, safest country on Earth,” the senator said. “Stop being a propagandist.”

Cruz spokesman Steve Guest told The Washington Post that Stone’s line of questioning surrounding mass shootings in the United States was incorrect. Guest pointed to research from the Crime Research Prevention Center, a pro-firearms nonprofit founded by former Trump appointee John R. Lott Jr., that claims “the U.S. is well below the world average in terms of the number of mass public shootings.”

“Contrary to a reporter’s assertion that suggested mass shootings are a uniquely American problem, the data shows that is not accurate,” Guest said. “In addition to not being true, making that false argument isn’t actually helpful.”

A spokesperson with Sky News did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

The fiery exchange comes shortly before Cruz is scheduled to speak at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting over Memorial Day weekend in Houston, a few hundred miles away from Uvalde. The event is the largest gun-lobby gathering this year and comes after cancellations because of the coronavirus pandemic. It will also feature speeches by a group that includes Abbott and former president Donald Trump.

Gun-rights groups have given Cruz’s campaigns or PACs more than $442,000 during his career, the most of any lawmaker between 1989 and 2020, according to Federal Election Commission data from 2021 cited by OpenSecrets. Cruz and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) are two of the top three lawmakers to receive financial contributions from gun-rights supporters, according to Axios.

Cruz has faced criticism from Democrats and liberals in recent days after he tweeted his thoughts and prayers to the victims, saying he and his wife, Heidi, were “fervently lifting up in prayer the children and families in the horrific shooting in Uvalde.” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) questioned why Cruz was still scheduled to speak at the NRA convention, while Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) tweeted a four-letter expletive to the Republican senator.

On Wednesday, Cruz was among the Republicans at Abbott’s news conference in Uvalde when Democratic Texas gubernatorial nominee Beto O’Rourke interrupted the governor to tell him he was “doing nothing” to stop the next mass shooting. Cruz, who was standing behind Abbott, told O’Rourke to “sit down” as the Democrat was escorted out of the auditorium.

Beto O’Rourke confronts Abbott in Uvalde: ‘You are doing nothing’

“This is on you. Until you choose to do something, this will continue to happen,” O’Rourke said to Abbott, who mostly avoided eye contact with the Democrat and did not respond. “Somebody needs to stand up for the children of this state, or they will continue to be killed.”

Cruz also got the attention of one of his favorite sparring partners, late-night host Jimmy Kimmel. On ABC, Kimmel offered an emotional appeal to Cruz and Republicans to pass laws that could help prevent future mass shootings. While background check bills like H.R. 8 have passed in the House, Senate Democrats and experts are pessimistic that a deal could be done to pass it into law.

H.R. 8 gun background check bill probably won’t pass, even after Uvalde

“I don’t believe Ted Cruz doesn’t care about children. I don’t. I refuse to believe he is unaffected by this. He’s a father. I bet he went to bed sick to his stomach last night. It’s easy to call someone a monster. But he’s not a monster — he is a human being. And some people might not like hearing me say that, but it’s true,” Kimmel said. “So here’s the thing I would like to say to Ted Cruz, the human being, and Governor Abbott, and everyone: It’s okay to admit you made a mistake. In fact, it’s not just okay, it’s necessary to admit you made a mistake when your mistake is killing the children in your state.”

He added, “It takes a big person to do something like that. It takes a brave person to do something like that. And do I think these men are brave people? No, I don’t. I don’t. But man, I would love it if they surprised me.”

But on Fox News, Cruz slammed what he called “political posturing” from Democrats like O’Rourke after the attack in Uvalde. He told host Jesse Watters that he wants schools to install bulletproof doors and bulletproof glass to help prevent shootings.

“Have one door into and out of the school and have that one door, armed police officers at that door,” Cruz argued. “If that had happened, if those federal grants had gone to this school, when that psychopath arrived, the armed police officers could have taken him out and we would have 19 children and two teachers still alive.”

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