Ted Cruz is being slammed for comments he made in Iowa over the weekend. Here’s RawStory with a typical characterization:
In a frantic effort to pin blame on the Planned Parenthood terror attack on Friday on anyone but the anti-choice right, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said that Christian extremist Robert Louis Dear was “registered as an independent and a woman and transgendered leftist activist” at a press conference on Sunday.
The Texas Tribune reported on Cruz’ attempt to distance his party and presidential campaign from the attack at a campaign stop in Newton, Iowa.
Sounds pretty bad. But did he really say that? I’m not so sure. Here’s the Times:
Speaking to reporters in Newton, Iowa, Mr. Cruz said “we don’t fully know the motivations of this deranged individual” in the shooting, which killed three people and wounded nine.
Mr. Cruz added, without prompting, that the suspected gunman, Robert L. Dear Jr., was “registered to vote as a woman.” He suggested that there was “very little evidence” tying the shooting to anti-abortion sentiment, a cause frequently invoked by Mr. Cruz and his fellow Republicans in the presidential primary.
When a reporter cited news reports that Mr. Dear had said “no more baby parts” after he was apprehended, Mr. Cruz replied, “Well, it’s also reported that he was registered as an independent and as a woman and a transgender leftist activist.”
This construction was inartful, and, given how the media always reacts to such comments, it was naive. But I’m not convinced that it was “frantic” or that Cruz was “blaming” anybody. Cruz’s team argues that their candidate was “not saying with certainty that the gunman was a ‘transgender leftist activist,’ but rather highlighting how little was known about him definitively.” That rings true to me, especially given how keen Cruz was to label the murderer as “evil.”
The Texas Tribune’s reporting makes me even more skeptical:
“The media promptly wants to blame him on the pro-life movement when at this point there’s very little evidence to indicate that,” Cruz said.
When a reporter reminded Cruz it has been reported Dear made a comment about “baby parts” while being apprehended, Cruz retorted, “It’s also been reported that he was registered as an independent and a woman and a transgendered leftist activist. If that’s what he is, I don’t think it’s fair to blame on the rhetoric on the left. This is a murderer.”
Cruz’s claim appeared to be based on a voter registration form that lists Dear’s gender as female. “We know that he was a man who was registered to vote as a woman,” Cruz said.
Asked if we could call the shooting an act of domestic terrorism — as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has — Cruz again urged caution about drawing conclusions from the shooting at this point.
“I would call it a murder, and we’ll see what the facts are,” Cruz replied. “It was a multiple murder of what appears to be a deranged individual. And it was horrific, it was evil, and we’ll find out more out about the facts, but I don’t think we should jump to conclusions.”
“If that’s what he is.” “At this point.” “We’ll see what the facts are.” “We’ll find out more about the facts.” “I don’t think we should jump to conclusions.” These are hardly the words of a man hoping to “pin” a crime on an innocent party. Inconvenient as it might be, we still don’t actually know what happened in Colorado. What did we expect Cruz to say: “Boy, those pro-lifers are terrible, amirite”?
If there is a criticism to be made, it is that Cruz often comes across as a guy who is trying to impress the debate judges rather than to actually advance his message. That’s a problem in a presidential candidate, sure. But it’s a different problem than recklessness or dishonesty.