Texas Senator Ted Cruz found himself denounced by the daughter of late civil rights champion Dr Martin Luther King Jr on Sunday after he attempted to invoke Dr King’s legacy in order to attack the modern incarnation of the anti-racism movement.
Mr Cruz used Dr King’s name in his own tweet attacking the NAACP, one of America’s oldest and best known anti-racist institutions. The Texas Republican took issue with the organisation after it issued a “travel advisory” warning about Florida’s far-right turn under Governor Ron DeSantis, in particular efforts to ban what he calls “woke” lessons in schools which most experts on the issue say is really about erasing teachings about the struggle for civil rights and racial equality in America. The advisory came as a result of a unanimous vote by the NAACP’s board.
"Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals. Before traveling to Florida, please understand that the state of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of color," the advisory states.
Mr Cruz responded on Twitter to a conservative publication’s writeup of the issue and wrote angrily: “This is bizarre. And utterly dishonest. In the 1950s & 1960s, the NAACP did extraordinary good helping lead the civil rights movement. Today, Dr. King would be ashamed of how profoundly they’ve lost their way.”
This is bizarre. And utterly dishonest.
In the 1950s & 1960s, the NAACP did extraordinary good helping lead the civil rights movement.
Today, Dr. King would be ashamed of how profoundly they’ve lost their way. https://t.co/F9EAiEfDP6
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) May 21, 2023
But Dr King’s daughter, author and activist Bernice King, retorted that her father would be strongly opposed to conservative efforts to whitewash American history as well as the campaign against LGBT+ Americans currently consuming the far-right.
“What my father would be deeply concerned about is the harmful, discriminatory legislation in Florida,” she wrote.
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) May 22, 2023
She wasn’t the only person to take issue with the senator’s tweet. A Democratic former member of New York’s congressional delegation, Mondaire Jones, was less subtle in his response as he opined that Mr Cruz would have fought desegregation efforts in the 50s and 60s.
“We know exactly which side you would’ve been on in the 1950s and 60s, Ted,” wrote the congressman-turned-CNN-contributor.
We know exactly which side you would’ve been on in the 1950s and 60s, Ted. https://t.co/XHa2mitWri
— Mondaire Jones (@MondaireJones) May 22, 2023
The NAACP’s president, Derrick Johnson, further explained the organisation’s decision in a statement.
"Under the leadership of Governor DeSantis, the state of Florida has become hostile to Black Americans and in direct conflict with the democratic ideals that our union was founded upon. He should know that democracy will prevail because its defenders are prepared to stand up and fight. We're not backing down, and we encourage our allies to join us in the battle for the soul of our nation,” said Mr Johnson.
Mr DeSantis’ team, meanwhile, issued a response calling the advisory a “stunt” for attention.