Texas senator Ted Cruz was spotted boarding a plane to the Mexican resort town Cancun as thousands in his state struggle to keep warm amid power outages caused by historic winter weather.
On Wednesday, photographs from multiple sources appeared to show Cruz in a mask standing in the boarding area for a United flight at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, and then on the plane itself holding a passport.
Multiple reporters say they have confirmed that Cruz’s final destination was Cancun. A passenger identified as “CRU, R.” was also spotted on the list of people waiting to upgrade seats for the United flight to Cancun. The senator’s full name is Raphael Edward Cruz.
On Thursday morning, “CRU, R.” was seen on a list of passengers awaiting the same upgrade on a flight from Cancun back to Houston. The Associated Press confirmed that Cruz was expected to return to Texas imminently.
In a statement issued early Thursday afternoon, the senator admitted to traveling for pleasure.
“Like millions of Texans, our family lost heat and power, too,” Cruz said. Because his daughters’ school was cancelled due to the weather, Cruz and his wife, Heidi, decided to allow them to take “a trip with friends”.
“Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon,” the senator said. Given the ongoing threat of the coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises against nonessential travel to most areas of the world, including Mexico.
Cruz assured constituents that he and members of his staff are “in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas”.
The Texas Republican has vacationed at the resort town in the past ― but not while people across his home state are scrambling for potable water and food during a pandemic that has already strapped state resources.
Internet sleuths pointed to a long list of consistencies between the images purportedly taken on the plane to Cancun and images of the senator, including a matching face mask, glasses, luggage, shoes and a ring.
In a brief update on the statewide situation Wednesday, Texas governor Greg Abbott did not say when Texans could expect to see power restored. The situation has put hospitals on edge as dwindling reserves of potable water has forced doctors to transfer patients, according to the Texas Tribune.