WASHINGTON — Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is facing backlash after photos went viral that purportedly show him and his family traveling to Cancún, Mexico, as his state’s residents suffer without heat, water and power because of the state’s historic winter storm.
The images, which began circulating on social media Wednesday night, show Cruz with his family waiting at an airport gate with luggage and boarding a plane. NBC News verified several of the photos, which seemed to show the senator traveling to Mexico, though the reasons for the visit are not known.
Cruz’s Senate office did not respond to NBC News’ repeated requests for comment.
The Houston Police Department confirmed to NBC that Cruz’s staff contacted them on Wednesday afternoon to assist him in his arrival and movements through Houston’s international airport.
“They reached out to us, let us know that he was going to be arriving and could we assist, so upon his arrival to the Houston airport we monitored his movements,” a police department spokesperson told NBC.
The reports come as millions of people across Texas have been struggling without power and heat and suffered water system disruptions for several days amid record-low temperatures.
The state Democratic Party has called on Cruz to resign from Congress because of the situation, tweeting, “Texans are dying and you’re on a flight to Cancun. #TedCruzRESIGN.”
Robert Mann, who served as communications director to Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco during Hurricane Katrina, told NBC News he can’t think of anyone as prominent as Cruz who left his own state after a disaster struck.
“This is usually the time that elected officials want to show their constituents how much they are committed to helping them,” said Mann, now a journalism professor at Louisiana State University. “It defies all common and political sense to leave the state for anywhere at a time like this, much less take a vacation to a toasty warm spot like Cancún. It’s among the dumbest, most callous things I’ve ever seen a politician do.”
State Rep. Gene Wu tweeted late Wednesday, “Guess which US Senator from Texas flew to Cancun while the state was freezing to death and having to boil water?” and showed an image of Cruz walking down the aisle of a plane he was boarding.
Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., tweeted Thursday, “It must be easy not to believe in climate change if you can just leave millions of Texans suffering without power or water to sit on a beach in Cancún.”
The last thing tweeted from Cruz’s Senate account was about how he and eight other GOP lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee were calling for an investigation into New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s handling of the reporting on nursing home deaths due to Covid-19.
Cruz tweeted a video clip of a CNN segment in early December about how Democratic officials were caught not following their own guidelines when it came to Covid-19. Cruz called them, “Hypocrites. Complete and utter hypocrites.”
He said in his tweet not to forget that Austin Mayor Steve Adler “who took a private jet with eight people to Cabo and WHILE IN CABO recorded a video telling Austinites to ‘stay home if you can … this is not the time to relax.'”
Julie Tsirkin, Caroline Radnofsky, Sara Mhaidli and Matthew Mulligan contributed.