In an interview, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson denounced Cruz for his comment and accused the GOP senator of telling a “lie.”
“The way I phrased things yesterday, it was sloppy and it was frankly dumb,” Cruz said in the interview that aired on the anniversary of the riot. Cruz said “as a result of my sloppy phrasing,” many people misunderstood what he meant when he called it a terrorist attack.
“What I was referring to are the limited number of people who engaged in violent attacks against police officers and I think you and I both agree that if you assault a police officer, you should go to jail. That’s who I was talking about,” he said. “I wasn’t saying that the thousands of peaceful protesters supporting Donald Trump are somehow terrorists. I wasn’t saying the millions of patriots across the country supporting President Trump are terrorists and that’s what a lot of people have misunderstood.”
Carlson shot back that attacking a police officer doesn’t make someone a terrorist: “How many people have been charged with terrorism on Jan. 6?”
“Tucker, I agree with you,” Cruz said. “It was a mistake to say that yesterday.”
The Texas senator referred to the Jan. 6 riot as a terrorist attack during a Senate hearing Wednesday featuring testimony from Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger.
Cruz, who was among 147 Republicans in Congress who voted on Jan. 6 to overturn Biden’s victory, said at the hearing that the riot that day was a “terrorist attack.” He said that “anyone who commits an actual act of violence should be prosecuted, and anyone who assaults a law enforcement officer should go to jail for a very long time. And I think that’s a principle that is true, regardless of the politics of the violent criminal, whether they are right wing, left wing or they got no wings at all.”
The backlash to Cruz’s comment from conservative circles was swift, including on Carlson’s show Wednesday night and on former Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s podcast.
Cruz has long referred to the Jan. 6 rioters as terrorists, including in the hours after the riot took place. He called it a “despicable act of terrorism” on Jan. 7, said in a May press release that it was a terrorist attack and called the riots “terrorists” in a local TV interview.