November 8th, 2013
10:13 PM ET
8 years ago

Ted Cruz makes his late-night debut

Updated 11/9/2013 at 1:04pm ET

(CNN) - Sen. Ted Cruz is no longer limiting his speaking engagements to friendly GOP events and marathon talks on the Senate floor, appearing for the first time Friday on late-night television.

The Texas Republican was on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" to talk about his growing reputation as a tea party firebrand and his stances on issues such as Obamacare and same-sex marriage.

Cruz has fast become one of the most outspoken critics of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

He fed 2016 speculation as one of the leaders of the Defund Obamacare movement in Congress, an effort that helped precipitate the partial government shutdown when Democrats flatly refused to pass a government funding bill that also sought to destroy the health care law.

Reid: Cruz 2016 nomination would destroy GOP

For Cruz, the shutdown blame was and has been all on the Democrats. “I said throughout, we shouldn’t shut down the government,” he said Friday.

The shutdown happened only because Democrats “said ‘we will not negotiate and we will not compromise,’ ” Cruz said.

Democrats said that negotiating under duress was not negotiation and that the blame falls to Cruz and other Republicans’ uncompromising crusade against Obamacare.

That crusade gained Cruz intense ire from Democrats and even some Republicans, a situation that seemed to suit him just fine Friday. Asked by Leno about descriptions of the freshman senator as aggressive, arrogant and abrasive, Cruz said, "Don't believe everything you read."

"What I'm trying to do is do my job," he said. "And occasionally people don't like it."

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Cruz again tried to don a Reagan-esque mantle Friday, claiming that the Gipper launched a “grass-roots revolution” in the Republican Party in the 1980s. The clear implication is that Cruz believes he has spawned his own grass-roots revolution against Obamacare, boasting of gaining 2 million signatures on a petition against the health care law.

On that topic, Cruz continued to maintain his tried-and-true talking points: that the law is destructive and harmful, costing people jobs and money on their premiums.

Cruz avoided accusations of only wanting to do away with health care reform.

"I'm a big believer in health care reform," Cruz said.

"I think we ought to reform health care so it's personal, it's portable, it's affordable. We ought to empower patients rather than government bureaucrats getting between you and your doctor."

Cruz also touched on some of the debate surrounding his father, Rafael Cruz, a businessman and evangelical pastor who's made a number of controversial comments, including calling on President Barack Obama to be sent "back to Kenya." The two have frequently campaigned together, and Cruz has often called his father his inspiration.

Ted Cruz responds to father's 'ill-advised joke'

The comments that Cruz responded to Friday involved his father’s opposition to same-sex marriage, an opposition the younger Cruz shares. But he has said he feels that the issue is one that should be determined state to state.

Politics is a dirty game, Cruz acknowledged.

"Some folks have decided to try to go after him because they want to take some shots at me," Cruz said.

"But I think the critics are better off attacking me."

Filed under: Ted Cruz
soundoff (221 Responses)
  1. ThinkAgain: The GOP owes our nation $24 billion

    @Johnny DC: "Which part of Ted Cruz is self-serving? You message board sheep love to just chime in with your talking points, having never heard the man speak or be interviewed. You just assume he bad for America, with no proof and no investigation of your own. Ted Cruz is a patriot the likes of which have not been seen in this country for decades. If only you sheep could read and think for yourselves."

    Anyone who thinks it's a good thing to put our nation's economy – and the global economy – in jeopardy and risk's the good faith and credit of the U.S. is a dangerous fool.

    There's nothing patriotic about that – in fact, IMO, it's treasonous.

    And your assumption that anyone disagreeing with Cruz has never heard him speak or be interviewed is a sheep – well, that's puts you right up there with him in terms of self-delusion and egocentricity. I've done my research and my investigation and my conclusion is Cruz IS bad for our nation. If you can't take the heat ...

    November 9, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  2. Foolishcfo

    Ted Cruz is an idiot and is an embarrassment to the Republican Party. He duped Texans once and I hope they're successful in unseating when his term is up. He doesn't belong on late night TV. He doesn't belong on late-late-night TV. There may be a spot on late-late-late night TV when they run the emergency broadcasting tests.The Republican party needs electable moderates like Christie.

    November 9, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  3. Winston Smith

    Shame someone didn't challenge him to a debate right there in the studio audience. Jay Leno, would have crapped all over himself if that would have happened.

    November 9, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  4. ThinkAgain: The GOP owes our nation $24 billion

    Further comment to Johnny DC: Cruz was born in Canada of an American mother and Cuban father. He holds at LEAST Canadian citizenship, U.S. citizenship and Cuban citizenship – and until he becomes a naturalized American citizen (by renouncing his Canadian and Cuban citizenships and swearing allegiance to our country), he continues to hold these other citizenships – AND IS NOT ELIGIBLE TO BE POTUS.

    I know – because I'm a naturalized American (my 30-year career Army father was stationed in Germany where I was born, which gave me dual German-American citizenship until I was naturalized when I was 12). I have naturalization papers signed by Kissenger – where's Cruz's paperwork?

    November 9, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  5. ThinkAgain: The GOP owes our nation $24 billion

    @Dick Delson: "Cruz is a schmuck. And that's the nicest thing I can say about him"

    I would also say he's a putz.

    November 9, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  6. JHA in Texas

    Still no APOLOGY from jr. Sen. Ted Cruz for:

    1). Shutdown of government that cost US economy $ 24 BILLION DOLLARS .
    2). Slanderous attacks against Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel during Senate confirmation hearing, Cruz attacked Hagel's honesty, patriotism ans integrity. With ZERO (0) evidence Cruz accused Hagel of taking $ 200,000 from North Korea, played edited foreign media Interviews to misrepresent Hagels responses – all these attacks angered fellow GOP & Dem. Senators who rebuked Cruz for his Joe MacCarthy tactics on Hagel -a US decorated veteran who volunteered to fight in Vietnam.
    3) For wasting his days in Washington D.C. Plotting conservative Tea Party government shutdown and his own personal political advancement, instead of working for the people of Texas. His voting record of NO, stands in very poor comparison to our other US Senator Cornyn who a real record of service to Texas.
    4) For his father running around the State lying our twice elected US President by majority of Americans is a Marxist, a communist, born in Kenya, refuses to say "our God" when reciting Pledge of Allegiance, not a Christian, and all sorts of crazy tripe – captured on video.

    Still awaiting your APOLOGY jr. Sen. Ted Cruz............

    November 9, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  7. john

    Whether you believe in what he stands for or you don't, the one thing I can say about Ted Cruz is he is a breath of fresh air. The last time the senate had any significant leadership was when LBJ was senate majority leader. Cruz is clearly upsetting the status quo of the Senate where elderly politicians go to die. I don't know if he's presidential material, but he sure has had a profound impact since he's arrived in Washington. And the media may be criticizing him, but they always manage to have a camera crew and reporter ready to ask him questions. The media is fascinated with him, whether they'll admit it or not.

    November 9, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  8. ScottCA

    Leno should have read Dr.Sues the whole time Cruz tried to speak.

    November 9, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |

    Tea Party Gop Jr. Sen. Ted Cruz needs to apologize for shutting down the US Government !!!!

    November 9, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  10. Peter

    It took Obamacare to get the Republicans to admit that healthcare reform was necessary.

    Before Obamacare, they did absolutely NOTHING.

    I still wonder what their counter-proposal is, but at least they now admit the system wasn't working.

    Too bad it took Obamacare passing to wake them up.

    November 9, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  11. Bill

    Nothing new form America's #1 propagandist,
    except the loss of his tie.

    November 9, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  12. Larry L

    @Arlen Cooper

    "I would vote for Cruz in a heartbeat. He is the only voice I hear that stands up to the Kenyan impostor!"

    If any moderate Republicans still exist you need to look at this comment. This exactly the sort of people you've allowed to control the GOP. This sort of person will cause the Republican Party to fade from the political scene. America has no use for bigoted radicals.

    November 9, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  13. coolvfx

    so where's your plan Teddy-boy? Instead of speaking in sweeping generality
    , why not tell of us specifics...Oh thats right, You tea-baggers have no plan.

    November 9, 2013 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  14. AJ

    What a joke,

    He brings down the government so he can be president in 2016. The GOP billionaires started tea party and paid for it and supported by fox news. Now the tea party has gone too extreme and hurting the government and business, HA , HA, HA. You get what you pay for. He doesn't even represent fellow Hispanics in Texas much less the nation. He's a white tea party yes man trying to be Hispanic.

    November 9, 2013 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  15. Burbank

    This bag of dirt was making me so sick with his phony political ooze I had to change the channel and watch something else.

    November 9, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  16. Republican who supports President Obama

    The GOP have proven time and time again they are incapable of leadership. They play victim when they are pressed to answer any questions but expect everything from the Dems to be 100% perfect while questioning at every single opportunity. Where is the congressional hearing to hold them accountable for when things go wrong – like the government shutdown.

    November 9, 2013 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  17. mkuske

    "...when Democrats flatly refused to pass a government funding bill that also sought to destroy the health care law."

    They also refused to pass a government funding bill that also sought to just DELAY the personal mandate provision of health care law, a provision that many Democrats suddenly are now FOR. It is and was the right thing to do but Obama and his Democrat buddies steadfastly refused and had government shut down because they wouldn't even consider it.

    November 9, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  18. mkuske

    I will say, if you watch the interview and consider the negative tone by a liberal Leno and the audience Cruz faced, he was extremely well received, garnering by far the loudest applause of the night with a couple of his responses.

    November 9, 2013 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  19. JohnRJohnson

    I don't think I've ever heard Ted Cruz say anything in a normal, conversational tone of voice. Everything that comes out of his mouth is a performance. An act designed to attract big corporate contributors, like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson. I don't think Cruz has made a single sincere statement since he first learned to talk. Peter King, whom I rarely agree with, was right. Ted Cruz is a total fraud. A narcissistic, opportunistic, demagogue who obviously thinks that voters are stupid sheep. Then again, Texans did elect he and Louie Gohmert to Congress. Must be something in the water down there.

    November 9, 2013 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  20. wm Scot

    The remark that the president is a Kenyan impostor speaks volumes of your mindset and intellect !

    November 9, 2013 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  21. Republican who supports President Obama

    Sorry I have no respect for the obstructionists in government. I prefer not to hear anything they have to say because they have nothing constructive to offer. All they do is cry and whine.

    November 9, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  22. Woman In California

    Has anyone else noticed that everything the president does is wrong yet these simpletons follow in his footsteps?

    He's a celebrity president (see Cruz above);
    He's uses the media too much (see Palin and others);
    He's the teleprompter-in-chief (too many T-Publicans to name);
    He sings when he should be working (see Willard's performance);
    He's out to mislead the youth (Santorium, Paul Ryan and many others); and
    The black jacket (Willard).

    All things copied from the president by T-Publicans and this is only a short list. For someone (the president) who seems to do so many things wrong, why do you hypocrites keep copying him? Silly rabbits.

    November 9, 2013 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  23. Bill

    I am fairly conservative but I think Cruz is a lightweight punk who will only screw things up for the rest just to get his name/face in the news.

    November 9, 2013 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  24. norma jean

    TO Johnny DC...........obviously if people don't like Cruz and what he stands for ...they have listened to him....One doesn;t have to follow his endless speeches to form an opinion... He's loud,arrogant and thinks he alone can solve the worlds problems.............WRONG....CRUZ......VERY WRONG!!!!

    November 9, 2013 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  25. GEORGE

    Did he come onto the show in a small car, air horn and wearing a red wig and makeup? Send in the clowns….

    November 9, 2013 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
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