Ted Cruz defends Trump endorsement at Texas Tribune Festival

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Texas senator Ted Cruz takes questions from Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith at Tribune Fest on September 24, 2016. His response to a Muslim student has drawn criticism.
Photo Credit: Stephanie Tacy | Daily Texan Staff

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX, former presidential candidate, made an appearance at the Texas Tribune Festival this weekend in a one-on-one conversation with Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith that centered around his endorsement of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Cruz endorsed Trump in a statement Friday on Facebook just one day before his appearance at the festival. 

During the conversation with Smith, Cruz was forced to defend his endorsement of Trump despite the nominee’s repeated insults to Cruz’s family members and his strong rhetoric on a number of issues.

Cruz said his endorsement of Trump was based on six policy tenets that he believed were more important than his personal issues with the nominee — Supreme Court nominations, President Barack Obama’s health care law, energy, immigration, national security and internet freedom — along with his opposition to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s “left-wing” agenda.

Smith recited a list of accusations Cruz had directed at Trump, including calling him a “serial philanderer” and a “pathological liar,” and asked him what had changed about their relationship since the primary season.

“We are left to conclude one of two things,” Smith said. “Either you said those things during the heat of the campaign and you didn’t mean them, or you did mean them and somehow you’re looking past that and you think a serial philanderer who is utterly immoral and a pathological liar should be president.”

Cruz responded that despite his many conflicts with Trump, the decision was based on what he believes is the best path for the country as laid out by the two major party nominees rather than personal reasons.

“I have had many, many disagreements with Donald,” Cruz said. “I don’t think it’s productive for me to criticize the presidential nominee today.”

Cruz was faced with a particularly loud and responsive crowd at the Festival. 

Smith asked Cruz if he believed the black community has legitimate grievances with law enforcement, and his response was met with loud booing. 

“I think that many members of the African-American community perceive that law enforcement does not treat them fairly,” Cruz said.

When asked directly if law enforcement treats the African-American community fairly, Cruz responded that it wasn’t a yes or no answer.

Plan II sophomore Zoya Zia identified herself as a Pakistani Muslim and asked what she could expect from a Trump presidency during the question and answer portion.

“I just want to know … if or how Muslims like me can feel comfortable [with] a government that has outwardly been racist and/or xenophobic to Muslims and other minorities,” Zia said. 

“Listen, that is a question that you’re going to have to ask yourself,” Cruz said. “You’re going to have to assess. Every voter has to assess their conscience. Which candidate is going to keep this country safe, is going to defend our freedom?”

Cruz spoke about how the “scourge of radical Islamic terrorism” has harmed Muslims in the Middle East as well as Americans.

The Austin Millennials for Ted Cruz, who endorsed Cruz in the primary and have not endorsed Trump as of yet, were not able to be reached
for comment.

The first presidential debate between the nominees will be broadcasted at 8 p.m. Monday on ABC News.