Ted Cruz is many things: a Texas senator, a former presidential hopeful, a married father of two, and, if you ask Al Franken, he's also the "toxic guy in an office — the guy who microwaves fish." Now, he's got a new top line to add to his list: Cruz has one hell of a complicated and absurdly public relationship with porn. And we're here to give you a brief history of that very thing.
How we got here:
On Sept. 12, the official @TedCruz Twitter account set the internet ablaze when it "liked" a hardcore porn clip in the wee hours of the morning.
Twitter lit up with a combination of confusion — what exactly is it that you get out of "liking" a porn tweet?? — and sheer glee at the pompous senator's clear misstep. "The offensive tweet posted on @tedcruz account earlier has been removed by staff and reported to Twitter," a member of Cruz's communications staff tweeted, but it was too late. The damage was already done. And while it's entirely possible that Cruz believed that this would instantly blow over if he just laid low for a while, he should've known better . . . you can't really hide in the Capitol, and he was confronted bright and early the following workday.
What Cruz had to say for himself:
"There are a number of people on the team who have access on the account. It appears that someone inadvertently hit the like button. When we discovered the post, which was I guess an hour or two later, we pulled it down," Cruz told Politico. "It was a staffing issue. And it was inadvertent; it was a mistake. It was not a deliberate act. We're dealing with it internally, but it was a mistake. It was not malicious."
It could have ended there, too. But it didn't:
"There will be an internal effort to figure out who in Cruz's office was responsible for liking porn tweet," CNN reporter MJ Lee tweeted, 12 hours after the "like" took place. That's right: a full half-day after the "like" occurred, the Cruz camp was still futzing around with how to handle the "mistake." And once again, Cruz extended the life of a news cycle, giving us ample time to come up with some really strange parallels in Cruz's history, all of which were handled equally poorly.
Cruz is no stranger to internet porn:
Behold an excerpt from his memoir, A Time for Truth: Reigniting the Promise of America, published by Politico Magazine in 2015.
"This brings me back, finally, to the pornography story. The year I was a clerk for Rehnquist, the Internet was nascent technology. The court was considering one of the first cases challenging the constitutionality of a law passed by Congress to regulate Internet pornography.
Most of the justices were in their 60s or older. Few knew much or anything about the Internet. So the librarians of the court designed a tutorial for them. They set up sessions for two justices at a time and their clerks. As it happened, our Rehnquist group was paired with Justice O'Connor's.
In a small room gathered the chief, O'Connor, and their respective law clerks. The librarians' purpose was to demonstrate to the justices how easy it was to find porn on the Internet.
I remember standing behind the computer, watching the librarian go to a search engine, turn off the filters, and type in the word cantaloupe, though misspelling it slightly. After she pressed 'return,' a slew of hard-core, explicit images showed up on screen.
Here I was, a 26-year-old man looking at explicit porn with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who was standing alongside the colleague (my boss) she had once dated in law school. As we watched these graphic pictures fill our screens, wide-eyed, no one said a word. Except for Justice O'Connor, who lowered her head, squinted slightly, and muttered, 'Oh, my.'"
It probably doesn't warrant explaining, but yes, you just read a description of how Cruz showed the Supreme Court how to find porn on the internet. But don't get the wrong idea here; just because he knows how to do it, doesn't mean he publicly endorses it. In fact, he took a pretty damn strong stance against it in 2016.
Also, Cruz's war on masturbation:
"There is no substantive-due-process right to stimulate one's genitals for non-medical purposes unrelated to procreation or outside of an interpersonal relationship," Cruz wrote in a 76-page brief obtained by Mother Jones in 2016. In the document, penned in 2007 when Cruz was solicitor general of Texas, Cruz came out against the sale of sex toys and likened it to prostitution, advocating instead for limiting sex to an act conducted between two people with a personal relationship for medical purposes or procreation. The connection here? It's pretty damn hard to argue that porn is viable in a world without masturbation — plus, with all the thinkpieces that emerged in the wake of this reveal, it was hard to associate Cruz with anything but masturbation, sex toys, and porn. The brief was (thankfully) thrown out, but for many, the association was set in stone.
There's also that ad from the election:
During the 2016 election, Cruz had to pull a national advertising campaign after Buzzfeed revealed that it featured a soft-core porn actress. In the ad, the actress says, "Maybe you should vote for more than just a pretty face next time," a darkly ironic statement that at the time referred to Marco Rubio, but clearly also applies to the casting choice.
And, finally, there's the Republican stance on porn:
"Pornography, with its harmful effects, especially on children, has become a public health crisis that is destroying the life of millions," the GOP platform draft from last Summer read. And while the "public health crisis" has been addressed in several states, it's supposed to be something the entire Republican party is unified on. Presumably, anyone who had access to Cruz's Twitter account would be in the same party as him, so perhaps this platform does not count for as much as some of the more hard-line conservatives believe.
The bottom line? Cruz should stay away from porn for a while:
All of the points above add up to years' worth of headlines that feature "Ted Cruz" and "porn" side by side. As the senator conducts his "internal investigation" into the most recent matter, it would probably be advisable for Cruz to step back a bit and try to distance himself from masturbation- and porn-related drama for a little while. Ted Cruz is many things . . . but a well-oiled on-message PR machine is clearly not one of them.