You know that friend you have who always seems to be pushing nonsensical stories via social media? The one who has the publish-first, think-second attitude? The friend who seems a little sheepish when you tell him that he promoted discredited stories, but who invariably does it again soon after?
Among Senate Republicans, Ted Cruz is that friend.
As The Associated Press reported this morning, much of the right has been circulating a purported cover story in The Atlantic with a headline that reads, “The evolution of white supremacy.” It then shows Muslim parents in Michigan who “oppose teaching pornography to children,” and who are apparently becoming “the new face of the far right.”
It’s entirely made up. From the AP report:
A screenshot purporting to show this article on The Atlantic’s website is fabricated. The outlet did not publish such a story. No record of it appears online or in archives of its cover stories, and a spokesperson for the outlet confirmed it is not authentic.
The made-up image making the rounds attributes the nonexistent article to Abby Ohlheiser, who hasn’t written for The Atlantic in nearly a decade. They're now facing online harassment about an article they didn’t write, due entirely to misinformation making the rounds on the right.
All of which brings us to the junior senator from the great state of Texas. The AP added, “Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas also tweeted the manipulated image on Friday morning, writing, ‘The Left is beyond parody,’ before deleting the post less than an hour later.”
The irony is astonishing. As CNN’s Daniel Dale noted, the senator cited a parody as evidence that the left is beyond parody.
Of course, for those who spend a lot of time online, it’s occasionally easy to fall for fakes, especially those that reinforce preconceived ideas. The problem for Cruz is that this happens far more often than it should, especially in light of his powerful position.
As regular readers may recall, it was last summer, for example, when conservatives embraced purported footage of the Taliban hanging a man from an American Blackhawk helicopter. It wasn’t true, but Cruz promoted it anyway.
The GOP lawmaker — a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — later backed off, saying the content he promoted “may be inaccurate.”
Two months later, Cruz told his Twitter followers that the White House’s “illegal vaccine mandate” had led to shortages of pilots and air traffic controllers. This wasn’t true, either.
Two months after that, the Texas Republican published a tweet complaining about Covid protections created by the “WA Government” — which he assumed meant officials in the state of Washington. It didn’t. The policies he blamed on “power drunk” Democrats in the United States were actually created by officials in Western Australia.
Earlier this year, a Fox News figure pushed a claim about a protestor dying after being trampled by a Canadian authority on horseback. The story wasn’t true, but a certain senator promoted it anyway. He ultimately walked back his online promotion of the false story — but not before his millions of Twitter followers saw wrong information for 15 hours.
Some politicians with national ambitions go to great lengths to earn a reputation for honesty and reliability. And then there’s Ted Cruz.