While Texas froze amid power crises, Sen. Ted Cruz traveled to Mexico for family vacation

Madlin Mekelburg
Austin American-Statesman

Days into an energy crisis that left millions of Texans without power and water amid freezing temperatures, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz boarded a plane to Cancún, Mexico.

Fellow passengers at the airport and onboard the plane snapped photos of the Texas Republican and shared them on social media Wednesday evening, prompting immediate backlash online from Texans still struggling with power outages and inspiring a call for his resignation from the Texas Democratic Party.

The backlash prompted Cruz to return early from his trip, where he said he had planned to "work remotely" until he realized that he was needed in Texas, according to video from the Washington Post.

"From the moment I sat on the plane, I begin really second-guessing that decision," Cruz said on Thursday evening. "As it became a bigger and bigger firestorm, it became all the more compelling that I needed to come back."

Ted Cruz says daughters asked for trip with friends

Initial news reports said Cruz was traveling to Cancún — where temperatures Wednesday were about 80 degrees — for a long-planned trip with his family and he was expected to return to Texas immediately. 

But a statement from Cruz issued early Thursday said the trip was more last-minute and was planned when his daughters asked to take a trip with friends. Cruz has two daughters: a 12-year-old and 10-year-old.

"Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon," he said in the statement.

It was initially unclear whether Cruz always planned to return home so quickly or whether he changed his travel plans after his departure.

His office did not immediately return a request seeking clarification, but Cruz confirmed that he changed his plans during a conversation with reporters on Thursday evening hat he changed his plans

"It was obviously a mistake and in hindsight, I wouldn’t have done it," Cruz said. "When you have two girls who have been cold for two days and haven’t had heat or power and they’re saying, ‘Hey look we don’t have school, why don’t we go? Let’s get out of here,' I think there would be a lot of parents who would say, 'If I can do this, great'."  

Text messages between Heidi Cruz, Ted Cruz's wife, and Houston neighbors obtained by the New York Times reveal details about how the trip came together.

In one message, Heidi Cruz said the family's house was "FREEZING" and in another she invited the group to leave town.

“Anyone can or want to leave for the week?” she wrote. “We may go to Cancún.” She included details for a Wednesday afternoon flight out of Houston, a Sunday return trip and a stay at the oceanfront Ritz-Carlton in Cancún.

Cancun flight draws backlash

Houston Police Department Chief Art Acevedo said a member of Cruz's staff requested an escort for his Wednesday departure from Houston. Acevedo said officers "monitored his movements through the terminal."

"While we are not aware of any request from Senator Cruz's staff for assistance regarding his return, his arrival will more than likely turn into a media circus," Acevedo said in a tweet Thursday. He said the Police Department "will be monitoring the situation." 

More:'Complete and utter hypocrites': Ted Cruz chided Austin mayor for Cabo trip. Then he flew to Cancun.

Backlash to Cruz’s trip came from far and wide, as many online questioned how the senator could aid his constituents while traveling out of the country.

"As millions of Texans remain without power and don’t have access to clean water or food, (Ted Cruz) has fled to Mexico for a beach vacation," said U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, in a tweet. "We knew he didn’t give a damn about our democracy. Now we know he doesn’t give a damn about Texas families freezing to death."

Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa called on the junior senator to step down from his post.

“Ted Cruz jetting off to Mexico while Texans remain dying in the cold isn’t surprising but it is deeply disturbing and disappointing,” Hinojosa said in a statement. “Ted Cruz had already proven to be an enemy to our democracy by inciting an insurrection. Now, he is proving to be an enemy to our state by abandoning us in our greatest time of need. For the 21st time, the Texas Democratic Party calls on Ted Cruz to resign or be expelled from office.”

When asked about Cruz's trip on Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott said, "I haven't been following people's vacation plans."

More:Exclusive: ERCOT said grid was prepared for winter weeks before Texas power crisis

Ted Cruz criticized Steve Adler for Cabo trip

Cruz also took heat online for his past criticisms of politicians in California and of Democrats in Texas. 

An August tweet Cruz posted mocking California’s “failed energy policies” amid wildfires and extreme heat waves resurfaced as Texas’ problems started.

Cruz responded to the recent criticism in a tweet, saying: “I got no defense. A blizzard strikes Texas & our state shuts down. Not good. Stay safe!”

In December, Cruz also had tough words for Austin Mayor Steve Adler after media discovered the mayor had traveled to Cabo San Lucas amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"Hypocrites. Complete and utter hypocrites," Cruz said in a Dec. 2 tweet. "And don't forget @MayorAdler who took a private jet with eight people to Cabo and WHILE IN CABO recorded a video telling Austinites to 'stay home if you can ... this is not the time to relax.'"

More:Austin mayor was vacationing in Cabo when he said residents ‘need to stay home'