Texas Senator Ted Cruz has returned home to face criticism following his decision to take a family trip to Mexico amid a winter storm that left millions in his state without power and water.
Cruz on Thursday confessed to have planned the holiday for his daughters, “wanting to be a good dad”, but had returned because it “didn’t feel right”.
This is after photos of the Republican lawmaker at an airport on Wednesday went viral. It fuelled outrage and protest against his decision to leave Texas during a crisis that almost left millions of people without water as reservoirs near empty.
Freezing temperatures have caused power blackouts at water treatment facilities and burst water pipes supplying homes, despite attempts by some homeowners to insulate them from the cold using blankets.
About 13 million Texans have been told to boil water that may be contaminated.
Cruz, who ran for the US presidency in 2016, has not only drawn criticism for taking the international trip, but also for reportedly leaving his dog, Snowflake, behind.
A New York Magazine reporter had tweeted an image early on Thursday that appeared to show the senator’s home, with Snowflake visible through the glass of the front door.
In a written statement released on Thursday afternoon, Cruz said that with schools closed in the state, he had booked the vacation for his young daughters who “asked to take a trip with friends”.
The senator added that he and his staff were “in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas”.
While he failed to apologise for making the trip amid the state of emergency in Texas, he ended up saying it was a “mistake” in a later interview.
“In hindsight, if I had understood how it would be perceived, the reaction people would have, obviously I wouldn’t have done it,” he said, adding that he had had “second thoughts as soon as we left” and understood why people were “upset”.
“Leaving when so many Texans were hurting didn’t feel right, and so I changed my return flight and flew back on the first available flight I could take,” he said.
Contrary to what the Senator said, a series of text messages by his wife, Heidi Cruz, to neighbors revealed it was a planned trip to Cancún, Mexico, as the freezing temperatures and widespread power outages became unbearable for him.
In one text, a contact identified in screenshots with her name said her family was staying with a neighbor who had power and then suggested a trip to Cancún.
“Is everyone warm? That’s a must! We could all huddle in one house, [name’s] had heat,” the text said. “Anyone can or want to leave for the week? We may go to Cancun, there is a direct flight at 445pm and hotels with capacity. Seriously.”
In a later text, the contact identified in screenshots as Heidi Cruz told the group, “the Ritz Carlton has rooms at like $300 and we’ve been there many times great property god security etc no issues,” adding: “I’ll confirm on the covid we need to call the hotel this am to confirm that but you just test when you arrive as needs to be 3days before return.”
Meanwhile, about 47 storm-related deaths have been reported and hospitals have been placed under severe pressure.
Food supplies in supermarkets are running low and residents are struggling to keep warm in some of the coldest temperatures the state has seen in more than 30 years – hitting 0F (-18C) earlier this week.