Sen. Ted Cruz has walked back comments this week in which he described last year’s Capitol riot as a “violent terrorist attack,” brushing it off as a “mistake” and “sloppy phrasing” on his part.
Cruz (R-Texas) made the initial comment during a Senate Rules Committee hearing with US Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger on Wednesday.
“We are approaching a solemn anniversary,” Cruz said, “and it is the anniversary of a violent terrorist attack on the Capitol, where we saw the men and women of law enforcement demonstrate incredible courage.”
“Anyone who commits an act of violence should be prosecuted, and anyone who assaults a law enforcement officer should go to jail for a very long time,” Cruz added, “and I think that is a principle that is true regardless of the politics of the violent criminal, whether they are right-wing, left-wing or no wings at all.”
Cruz’s description of the riot as a “terrorist attack” drew the ire of Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who noted on his show Wednesday night that the senator “doesn’t use a single word by accident.”
On Thursday night, Cruz appeared on the show and called his comments “dumb and sloppy.”
“I don’t buy that,” Carlson said at one point. “I’ve known you [a] long time, since before you went to the Senate. You were a Supreme Court contender. You take words seriously as anyone in the Senate. I do not believe you used that accidentally, I just don’t.”
“Tucker, as a result of my sloppy phrasing, it’s caused a lot of people to misunderstand what I meant,” Cruz responded. “What I was referring to was the limited number of people who engaged in violent attacks against police officers.”
Cruz — who was one of eight GOP senators to vote against certifying the 2020 presidential election results last January — added that he was not labeling the “thousands of peaceful protesters supporting Donald Trump” as terrorists.
“I wasn’t saying the millions of patriots cross-country supporting Trump are terrorists, that is what a lot of people misunderstood,” Cruz said.
Carlson pressed further, claiming the senator’s explanation “doesn’t make sense” and accusing him of “playing into the other side’s characterization that allows them to define an entire population as foreign combatants.”
Cruz explained that his use of the word “terrorists” in that context is not new, as he previously called Jan. 6 a “despicable act of terrorism.”
“That being said, it was a mistake to say that yesterday and the reason is what you said: is that we’ve had a year of Democrats and the media twisting words and trying to say that all of us are terrorists, trying to say you are a terrorist,” the lawmaker said. “I just don’t like people who assault cops.”
The senator attempted to explain himself further on Twitter, saying he “was NOT calling the thousands of peaceful protestors on Jan 6 terrorists.
“I would never do so; I have repeatedly, explicitly said the OPPOSITE—denouncing the Democrats’ shameful efforts to do so & to try to paint every Trump voter in America as ‘terrorists’ & ‘insurrectionists,’” he said.
“I was ONLY talking about the limited number of people who committed violent assaults on police officers,” he added in another tweet. “For over a decade, I’ve referred to those who violently attack police officers as terrorists. If you assault a cop you should go to jail.”
“The snippet from yesterday didn’t include my passionate & repeated defense of the patriots and peaceful protestors supporting President Trump,” Cruz added in a third tweet. “I’m sorry that that 20-second clip led so many to misunderstand what I was saying.”
More than 700 people have been charged with crimes connected to the riot, including assaulting police officers. The US Capitol Police Department’s union has estimated that nearly 140 cops were physically injured or emotionally traumatized by the attack.