U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, issued an apology for saying in a recent interview that critics of his pro-Israel comments at an ecumenical In Defense of Christians summit earlier this month only "care" about persecuted Christians when it comes with an "anti-Israel narrative."
"It was a mistake to suggest that critics of my remarks at IDC had not spoken out previously concerning the persecution of Christians; many of them have done so, often quite eloquently," Cruz said Thursday. "It was not my intent to impugn anyone's integrity, and I apologize to any columnists who took offense."
In an interview with World Magazine last weekend, the outspoken Tea Party Republican explained his side of the Sept. 10 mishap that forced him to end his keynote speech early at the In Defense of Christian's Inaugural Summit in Washington, D.C. The IDC was created to promote awareness of persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Christian groups from Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine were in attendance. Cruz's statement that Christians have no greater ally than Israel was met with boos from a small portion of the approximately 1,000 in attendance.
In the interview, Cruz criticized some columnists' remarks that stated when he took a stand with Israel in his speech at the summit's gala dinner it caused a distraction from the real issue of plight and persecution of Middle Eastern Christians.
"What I find interesting is almost to a person, the people writing those columns have never or virtually never spoken of persecuted Christians in any other context," Cruz said. "I will say it does seem interesting that the only time at least some of these writers seem to care about persecuted Christians is when it furthers an anti-Israel narrative for them. That starts to suggest that maybe their motivation is not exactly what they're saying."
A New York Times column by conservative Ross Douthat criticized Cruz for making those comments. He wrote that Israel is a "well-defended nation" and the more pressing issue and the purpose of the summit was to highlight the potential extinction of Middle Eastern Christians, even though some of those Christians have differing views on the Israel-Hezbollah conflict.
"[Israel's] supporters, and especially its American Christian supporters, can afford to allow a population that's none of the above to organize to save itself from outright extinction without also demanding applause for Israeli policy as the price of sympathy and support," Douthat wrote.
Other Cruz critics say that if his purpose for speaking at the event was to defend Israel then he should not have gone at all, or at least should have refrained from making those comments. Others have cricized his comments as a political opportunity to bring attention to himself.
Cruz said he was aware before he attended the IDC Summit there would be a contingent of Hezbollah supporters in attendance. He said he still wanted to attend because the persecution of Christians is too crucial of an issue for him not to attend. Additionally, Cruz had spoken with his internal advisors who advised him not to attend. However, he said he decided it was important to have a pro-Jewish voice involved in the summit.
"I didn't want to cede the discussion to the extremes," Cruz said. "If we simply stay away and allow those who are defending radical Islamic terrorist groups to dominate the conversation, I don't think that's the right thing to do."
Cruz said about 40 percent of the audience applauded his remarks while an outspoken 20 percent of the audience was "angrily booing" him. In Defense of Christians released a statement that said the crowd did not boo him off the stage but just wanted him to focus on Christian persecution.
"What I regret is that there was such an outpouring of hatred and anti-Semitism. It truly surprised me," Cruz said. "Look, I anticipated that there were one or two radical speakers who I didn't expect would be happy with what I was saying. What I didn't understand was that a significant minority of the attendees there reflected the same bitter hatred towards Israel and the Jews."