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Why it matters that Ted Cruz endorsed Russian propaganda (again)

In 2019, Ted Cruz faced some pushback after endorsing Russian propaganda for partisan purposes. In 2021, he's done it again.
Image: Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, at the  Capitol
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, at the Capitol on Feb. 13, 2021.Erin Scott / Reuters

A couple of years ago, U.S. officials invested a fair amount of time reminding American elected officials about the dangers of promoting Russian disinformation. In fact, the New York Times reported in November 2019 that U.S. intelligence professionals specifically informed senators and their aides that Russia was engaged in a lengthy campaign "to essentially frame" Ukraine for Moscow's attack against our 2016 elections.

It was against this backdrop that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), just a couple of weeks after the Times' report ran, appeared on NBC News' "Meet the Press" and told Chuck Todd that Ukraine "blatantly interfered" in our elections.

As the Texas Republican almost certainly knew, this wasn't true. But more important was the fact that Cruz thought it'd be a good idea to echo Russian disinformation, on purpose, in order to advance the Trump White House's twisted partisan agenda.

In other words, the Kremlin hoped to undermine American interests with bogus claims, and the junior GOP senator from Texas decided to play along because he believed Moscow's message suited his agenda.

Two years later, Cruz once again made a conscious choice to promote Russian propaganda. The Washington Post reported this morning:

The first half of the TikTok video shows a muscular Russian man with a shaved head doing push-ups, jumping out of a plane, and staring down the scope of a rifle. The second half shows a brightly animated U.S. Army ad telling the true story of Cpl. Emma Malonelord, a soldier who enlisted after being raised by two mothers in California and graduating at the top of her high school class. The U.S. Army said its ad showcases the "the deeply emotional and diverse" backgrounds of its soldiers. But to Sen. Ted Cruz, who retweeted the TikTok on Thursday, the contrast with Russia's campaign instead made American soldiers "into pansies."

The point of the video was hardly subtle: the viewer was supposed to believe that Russian troops are hardened killing machines, while U.S. troops are soft and weak.

Evidently, the Texas Republican was so impressed with the message that he both promoted the video and effectively endorsed its message.

"Holy crap," Cruz said in via tweet. "Perhaps a woke, emasculated military is not the best idea." It was several hours later when the senator added that Democrats and journalists intend to turn American troops "into pansies."

So, a couple of things.

First, it's a little unsettling to see Cruz endorsing Russian propaganda again. MSNBC's Brian Williams told viewers last night, "By all accounts, Ted Cruz did not like the nickname 'Cancun Cruz.' ... He really won't like being call 'Kremlin Cruz' after his latest and remarkably stupid lapse in judgment."

And second, if Cruz is looking for actual examples of emasculation, I might suggest the senator look past Cpl. Emma Malonelord and consider the example of a Republican senator who adopted a sycophantic posture toward his party's president even after he went after the senator's wife and father.