While hundreds of thousands of Texans still don’t have heat, electricity or safe drinking water five days after a severe winter storm crippled the state’s power grid, Ted Cruz confirmed that he hopped a flight with his family to Cancun on Wednesday.
The backlash to this was so heated, however, that the Republican Senator revealed he was returning home on Thursday.
“With school cancelled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends,” he said in a statement released on Thursday afternoon. “Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon.”
This contradicts earlier reports that this was a long-planned Cruz family trip, however, as well as some sources claiming that he wasn’t originally scheduled to return home until Saturday.
Cruz added that he had been in “constant communication” with state and local leaders while he was away.
In an interview late Thursday with Houston’s KTRK-TV, Cruz said he had planned to spend the weekend in Mexico.
The New York Times also obtained group text messages from Cruz’s wife, Heidi, to friends and neighbors revealing plans for the hasty trip, inviting people to join them at the Ritz-Carlton in Cancún.
Images that appeared to show the Republican senator on a flight to Mexico went viral on Wednesday night, with many critics accusing him of leaving his constituents in the cold while he went on spring break.
Former MSNBC anchor David Schuster tweeted, “Cruz seems to believe there isn’t much for him to do in Texas for the millions of fellow Texans who remain without electricity/water and are literally freezing.” He shared a post featuring a picture of Cruz on an airplane, but it should be noted that it wasn’t clear when that picture was taken, or where Cruz was flying to at the time.
But Keith Edwards, a former advisor to Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff’s campaign, also tweeted Wednesday night that multiple people were messaging him over Twitter
with photos confirming that Cruz was on their Wednesday flight to out of Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport to Cancun.
Fox News also reported Wednesday that the senator had flown to Cancun with his family amid the Texas power crisis, citing a Republican source.
And the Associated Press reported Thursday morning that Cruz had indeed crossed the border for a long-planned family vacation, but he was now expected to return immediately.
The situation also came up in Thursday’s White House press briefing. “I don’t have any update on the exact location of Senator Ted Cruz, nor does anyone at the White House,” press secretary Jen Psaki said, “but our focus is on working directly with leadership in Texas and the surrounding states on addressing the winter storm and the crisis at hand.”
Cruz’s reps were not immediately available for comment to confirm where the senator was on Thursday. But the tweets alleging that Cruz had jetted to Mexico while his constituents were freezing at home galvanized many Twitter users, leading “Cancun” to become the top trending topic on the social media site in the U.S. on Thursday morning.
His supporters argued that there is nothing Cruz himself could do about the Lone Star State’s power grid, anyway, so they didn’t see the issue with him leaving the state at this time.
Cruz’s disappearing act came just a couple of days after he tweeted “I got no defense” about the current crisis in Texas.
“A blizzard strikes Texas & our state shuts down,” he wrote. “Not good. Stay safe!”
Three million Texans were without power on Wednesday, meaning many were also without heat, as well, as temperatures plummeted below freezing for days. Texas officials ordered about a quarter of the population, or 7 million people, to boil tap water before drinking it after damaged infrastructure and frozen pipes contaminated the drinking water.
The number of Texans in the dark dropped to just under half a million on Thursday morning. The extreme winter weather has been blamed for killing more than 30 people across the country this week, including some who were struggling to keep warm inside their homes. They include a Houston-area family who succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning from carbon monoxide from car exhaust in their garage.
This article has been updated with Sen. Cruz’s statement.