Ted Cruz has mocked Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over lawmakers’ fears during the assault on the Capitol as he raged against “political theatre” following the attack, as well as mask guidance during a pandemic that has killed more than 500,000 Americans within a year, among other right-wing grievances while his state recovers from a devastating winter storm.
In his remarks to the the 2021 Conservative Political Action Conference, he said: “Bernie [Sanders] is wearing mittens, and AOC is telling us, ‘She was murdered!’ and the media desperately, desperately, desperately wants to see a Republican civil war.”
The Republican Senator from Texas claimed that Democrats are responsible for the increased security around the Capitol in the wake of the attack, fuelled by Donald Trump’s lie that the election was stolen from his supporters, because they are “convinced that political theatre helps them,” he told a crowd in Orlando, Florida.
Democrats have sought to “turn the Capitol into a military outpost in Baghdad,” he said.
He joked about wearing face coverings during the public health crisis from the Covid-19 pandemic, asking his audience “how much virtue do you want to signal” after saying health officials are telling Americans to wear masks “for the next 300 years.”
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“And by the way, not just one but two, three, four – you can’t have too many masks,” he said. “This is just dumb.”
More than 41,000 people in Texas have died from the disease, and confirmed infections in the state have topped 2.2 million. Republican Governor Greg Abbott, who did not implement a statewide mandate for wearing face coverings until July 2020, has recently indicated he considering “evaluating when we’re gonna be able to remove all statewide orders.”
The senator opened his remarks referencing his trip to Cancun, Mexico as his state experienced widespread, life-threatening power outages amid a winter storm that knocked out critical infrastructure.
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US Rep Ocasio-Cortez helped raise more than $5 million for Texas relief while Mr Cruz left the state, only to return facing criticism for appearing to abandon his constituents during the crisis. The New York congresswoman also travelled to the state to volunteer at a Houston food bank.
President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden are also travelling to Texas on Friday to visit a Houston food bank and emergency centre.
The senator did not mention the crisis in his CPAC remarks.
“Orlando is awesome,” he said, adding, “it’s not as nice as Cancun, but it’s nice.”
On one of the Republican Party’s largest stages broadcast across social media and cable news, he invoked “cancel culture” and fear-mongering visions of an authoritarian left in his at-times screaming speech riddled with grievances and right-wing tropes: the GOP is the party of calloused-hand working-class Americans and gives Americans the freedom to “worship however you like”.
Of Black Lives Matter protests, he said: “In Houston where I live, I have to tell you, there weren’t any rioters because let’s be very clear, if there had been, they would discover what the state of Texas thinks about the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.”
George Floyd, who was killed by police in Minneapolis, was laid to rest in Houston.
The annual conference – where the former president remains its most popular figure, with a literal golden statue – is the first in the post-Trump era, testing the party’s messaging and appeal ahead of 2022 mid-term elections and the 2024 presidential race.
Mr Trump will headline the conference on Sunday.