One photo on social media showed Ted Cruz wearing a mask and pulling carry-on luggage as he boarded a plane in Houston. People on the flight also took photos of Cruz and put them on social media.
Photos of the Republican lawmaker on Wednesday fuelled outrage at how he had left Texas during a crisis. On Thursday, after the trip drew widespread ridicule and outrage on social media, Cruz was on a plane to return to Houston.
He issued a statement explaining that he wasn't on a vacation for himself in Cancun, but chaperoning his daughters, ages 12 and 10, and their friends on the flight. "Wanting to be a good dad," Cruz said, he decided to fly "with them last night and am flying back this afternoon". “My staff and I are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas,” he continued. “We want our power back, our water on, and our homes warm.”
In text messages obtained by American Bridge, a Democratic political group, Cruz’s wife Heidi asked neighbors whether they wanted to accompany the family to Cancun.“Anyone can or want to leave for the week?” she wrote, noting that rooms at the city’s Ritz Carlton cost “$309 plus tax.”
Last Monday, Cruz said to Texans, "We could see up to a hundred people lose their lives this week in Texas, so don't risk it, keep your family safe, and just stay home and hug your kids."
Cruz did not apologise for making the trip amid the state of emergency in Texas, but in a later interview with broadcaster ABC13, he said it was "a mistake".
“It was obviously a mistake, and in hindsight, I wouldn’t have done it. I was trying to be a Dad.” he said.
While the situation will not help Cruz’s political future, the two-term senator is not in any immediate political danger. His current term expires in early 2025, and the unofficial beginning of the next Republican presidential primary election is two years away.
Cruz’s office did not immediately say whether the senator would self-quarantine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises people who have traveled during the pandemic to get a coronavirus test three to five days after their return and to quarantine for a full week, regardless of the test results.