The Florida congressman, who was speaking at the four-day Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando on Friday, accused the media of being ‘biased’ towards Mr Cruz, who was forced to return to Texas amid calls to resign last Thursday.
It followed reports Mr Cruz flew to Cancun with his family on Wednesday evening as hundreds of thousands of Texans remained without water or electricity for a fourth day running.
Addressing alleged “bias” in the media, Mr Gaetz said on stage at CPAC: “Now, speaking of all this bias, it was awful the way the media treated Ted Cruz.”
“I mean the left and the media were more worried about Ted Cruz going to Mexico to spend his own money, then they are about the caravans going through Mexico to take ours,” Mr Gaetz added, to audible applause from the crowd.
The Texas senator said last week that the trip to Cancun had been a “mistake” because he was “leaving when so many Texans were hurting” from freezing temperatures, which left as many as 30 people dead.
“[It] didn't feel right and so I changed my return flight and flew back on the first available flight I could take," Mr Cruz told reporters outside his home, where electricity had been restored last Thursday.
The senator went on to admit that he had intended to stay in Mexico for a couple of days, after saying in an initial statement he was making a round-trip with his daughters who asked for the holiday – causing further criticism of his reaction to the scandal.
Mr Cruz, who also appeared at CPAC on Friday, made a jokey reference to the controversy and said of the location: “Orlando is awesome. It’s not as nice as Cancun, but it’s nice.”
While the remarks drew applause and laughter from the crowd, many critics on Twitter contrasted Mr Cruz’s mocking of the controversy to a trip by US president Joe Biden to Texas on the same day, as Mr Cruz spoke in Florida.
“While Ted Cruz is making Cancun jokes in Orlando...”, wrote one user wrote above a tweet referring to Mr Biden’s visit to Texas.
Democrat congressman Eric Swalwell added: Don’t worry, Ted Cruz, have fun in Florida! President Joe Biden is in Texas helping your constituents while you’re away. And this comes after AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) raised $5m to feed your neighbours.”