Pity Ted Cruz. No one likes the guy. (“I just don’t like the guy”—George W. Bush) He’s spent the last few weeks being called out for his hypocrisy over hurricane aid. And now, just when he’d rather be selling his tax reform plan, he has spent almost an entire week talking about a pornographic tweet.
It is by now the stuff of legend: On Monday evening, Cruz’s official Twitter account clicked “like” on a tweet featuring hardcore porn, causing the tweet from account @SexuallPosts to show up on a section of Cruz’s public profile. Speculation ran wild, including at Slate. Did Cruz himself hit the like button? Did a staffer do it, and under what circumstances? On Tuesday, Cruz called it a “staffing issue,” furthering the story without clarifying it. Concerned watchdogs like CNN’s Chris Cillizza put Cruz on notice, treating the errant finger-twitch like the matter of national security that it was: “Cruz needs to clear this up. Immediately. Possibly sooner.” On Wednesday, he cleared it up—or at least tried to. In an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash, he said a staff member “accidentally hit the wrong button.”
Cruz seems to be in a forgiving mood toward the mystery staffer. He called it an “honest mistake” and said he wouldn’t throw the “fella” under the bus by revealing his name. Then again, Cruz is a forgiving guy: Then-candidate Donald Trump insulted his wife’s appearance and insinuated that his father was involved in the Kennedy assassination, and Cruz still endorsed him.
But the interview was notable for more than just Cruz’s awkward attempts to move past SexuallPosts-gate. When Bash brought up a 2007 case in which Cruz, then Texas solicitor general, defended a state law banning the sale of sex toys, Cruz got huffy. He called the ban a “stupid law” and said he only defended it because it was his job to do so. “Consenting adults should be able to do whatever they want in their bedrooms,” he said. “The media and the left seem obsessed with sex. Let people do what they want!”
Cruz’s newfound persona as a chill, sex-positive free spirit is all well and good. But back in 2007, Cruz showed no sign of thinking that the Texas sales ban on dildos and vibrators was “idiotic,” as he told Bash. His team filed a 76-page brief arguing that Americans have no right “to stimulate one’s genitals for non-medical purposes unrelated to procreation or outside of an interpersonal relationship.” When a court of appeals panel struck down Cruz’s argument in a 2–1 decision in 2008, the judges in the majority noted that the case was very specifically about controlling what consenting adults do in their own bedrooms: “It is about controlling what people do in the privacy of their own homes because the State is morally opposed to a certain type of consensual private intimate conduct.” After his loss, Cruz and the state’s attorney general (now-Gov. Greg Abbott) asked the full court of appeals to hear the case, and Cruz’s office filed another brief suggesting it might take the case—defending what he now calls a “stupid law”—to the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, Cruz’s approach to LGBTQ issues also does not suggest a mellow disinterest in other people’s bedroom habits. During his 2012 Senate campaign, he criticized his opponent for marching in a pride parade as Dallas mayor, saying it’s “not a statement I agree with.” He spoke publicly during that campaign about his record of “standing and fighting to protect traditional marriage between one man and one woman.” In the run-up to the 2016 election, he told NPR that opposition to same-sex marriage would be “front and center” in his campaign. Except he also he assured a gay-rights supporter at a private fundraiser that he would not make fighting same-sex marriage a top priority. That’s Ted Cruz: Consenting adults can do what they want behind closed doors as long as it’s politically convenient for him.