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How Ted Cruz Redeemed Himself With the GOP Base in Just One Week

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has been working overtime on cable news since last week, when his Jan. 6 comments put him at odds with the MAGA faithful.

SO WHAT

The senator’s crucible shows which way power flows in the new Republican politics.

WHAT HAPPENED

Cruz got sideways with some in the GOP base, including Fox News host Tucker Carlson, by saying Wednesday that the Capitol riot amounted to a “violent terrorist attack.”

  • Over the following week, Cruz made amends thrice-over.

1. Jan. 6: Cruz appeared on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” to apologize for his comment and be chastised by Carlson.

Cruz said his remarks the previous day had been “sloppy” and claimed he’d been misinterpreted.

  • But Carlson didn’t let him off the hook, saying, “I don’t buy that! Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. I don’t buy that.”
  • “You called this a terror attack,” Carlson continued. “That’s a lie. You told that lie on purpose. And I’m wondering why you did.”

2. Jan. 11: During a Senate Judiciary hearing on domestic terrorism, Cruz grilled Justice Department officials about a conspiracy theory promoted by Carlson that the federal government played a role in fomenting the Capitol riot.

“Did federal agents or those in service of federal agents actively encourage violent criminal conduct on Jan. 6?” asked Cruz. “Who is Ray Epps?”

  • Epps is a Marine veteran who some on the right suspect was an FBI plant who helped instigate the Capitol riot.
  • The Justice Department officials did not outright reject the questions by Cruz and other Republicans, but instead said they did not know or could not answer.
  • After Tuesday’s hearing, the House committee investigating Jan. 6 released a statement saying Epps had told them he was not a federal agent.

3. Jan. 12: Cruz delivered a passionate diatribe against media bias after a reporter at a press conference asked him why he and his Republican colleagues weren’t wearing face masks.

“Just once, I’d like to see a reporter say to Joe Biden when he stands at the damn podium at the podium without a mask, ‘Mr. President, why aren’t you wearing a mask?'” Cruz said, repeatedly slamming the podium.

  • “The questions are directed at one side, and I gotta say the American people see the hypocrisy.”

THE PAYOFF

Carlson on Tuesday night approvingly aired a minute-long clip of Cruz questioning Jill Sanborn, the executive assistant director of the FBI’s National Security Branch, during the day’s Senate Judiciary hearing.

“Did [the FBI] participate in violence or not?” Carlson remarked. “Why is that hard? Tells you a lot.”

SAME ENERGY

Cruz may be an extreme example, but in former President Donald Trump’s GOP, congressional Republicans have increasingly danced to a base-heavy tune — with Carlson often deejaying the party.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, an erstwhile moderate from California, has lately been promising anyone who will listen that if he becomes speaker, the House will play nothing but MAGA’s greatest hits.

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