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Ted Cruz refocuses talk of shooting to 'vicious rhetoric on the left'

The senator suggested that the man who shot up a Planned Parenthood clinic before telling police “no more baby parts” might have been a “transgender leftist.”
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Texas Sen. Ted Cruz speaks at the Freedom 2015 National Religious Liberties Conference in Des Moines, Iowa on Nov. 6, 2015. (Photo by Mark Kauzlarich/Reuters)
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Texas Sen. Ted Cruz speaks at the Freedom 2015 National Religious Liberties Conference in Des Moines, Iowa on Nov. 6, 2015.

This story has been updated.

Newton, Iowa— As questions continue to surround last week’s shooting at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Spring, Colorado, Republican candidate Ted Cruz on Sunday readily shifted focus to what he called “some vicious rhetoric on the left.”

"I think there’s been some vicious rhetoric on the left blaming those who are pro-life," Cruz said. "I’ll tell you, I’m proud to be unambiguously pro-life."

When asked about the shooter reportedly telling authorities “no more baby parts,” Cruz resisted suggestions that recent conservative condemnations of Planned Parenthood — including discredited allegations that the organization profited from fetal tissue donations — contributed to the Colorado shooter’s motives for killing three and staging an hours-long standoff with authorities.

During a campaign stop here in Iowa, the Texas senator seemed to reference unconfirmed reports, including one relating to the shooter's gender and political identification. The Cruz campaign told MSNBC that the senator was making a point that there were many different things that were reported, much of which is possibly not based on fact.

"It's also reported that he was registered  as an independent and as a woman and a transgender leftist activist, if that's what he is," Cruz said. He later added, "I don't think we should jump to conclusions until we know the facts actually of this individual and why he carried out this horrific murder.”

RELATED: What we know about the shooter at the Colorado Planned Parenthood

The Gateway Pundit, a conservative news site, first reported what they considered a discrepancy over the shooter's gender identification. He was reportedly registered as a woman in Colorado's voter registration rolls.

Cruz on Sunday also refused to address how he would handle the millions of undocumented immigrants already living in the country, despite hammering Marco Rubio this weekend for previously supporting a path to citizenship. Cruz rejected the possibility of taking his support of a potential path to legal status off the table — despite his cries in the past against “amnesty.”

“Let’s demonstrate we can stop illegal immigration, we can protect our national security interests, we can protect our law enforcement interests,” Cruz said in Iowa. “Then once that’s done, we can have a conversation at that point about whatever people remain here illegally.”

Cruz has insisted the border must be secured before addressing proposals of how to deal with the millions of undocumented immigrants still living in the United States.

One week ago in Harlan, Iowa, when asked about the proposition of legal status being on the table, Cruz said, “We can have that conversation with the American people once we’ve secured the border.”

Cruz adamantly rejects what he calls “amnesty” pushed by Rubio as part of the bill passed by the Senate in 2013 that would have opened up a pathway to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants in the country.

RELATED: Cruz accuses Rubio of false attacks to mislead voters

He compared the Senate’s bill to the 1986 immigration reform passed by Congress and signed by President Ronald Reagan that ultimately granted a pathway to legalization while also promising stronger enforcement on the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Congress and the Rubio-Schumer “Gang of 8” bill proposed the exact same deal,” Cruz said on Sunday. “We’ll grant amnesty this time to 12 million in exchange for some day maybe securing the border in the future.”

But questions over Cruz’s own position on how to deal with the undocumented immigrant population became a sticking point in the Cruz-Rubio feud in mid-November -– as the two freshman senators continue to rise in recent polling to be the GOP’s presidential nominee.

Amid Cruz’s strong critiques of Rubio’s previous immigration stances, Rubio blasted back at Cruz during a press conference in South Carolina two weeks ago: “Ted is a supporter of legalizing people that are in this country illegally.”

The Rubio campaign pointed to an amendment proposed by Cruz in 2013 that would have barred the granting of citizenship to undocumented immigrants but, instead, allowed them to receive work permits and stay in the country legally.

Alex Conant, spokesman for Rubio’s campaign, pointed to Cruz’s past support for a path to legal status and told NBC News on Sunday, “If Senator Cruz is changing his positions, then he should say so."

On Sunday, Cruz was asked by NBC News twice on whether he would take legal status off the table in immigration talks.

“The focus of the press and the focus of the Democrats is always on those people who are currently here illegally,” Cruz responded. “So my view is, first, we secure the border. We don’t have to secure every aspect of immigration all at once.” MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin contributed to this report. 

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the year Congress passed an immigration reform bill.