Beto O'Rourke Continues to Walk Back 'Lyin' Ted' Insult, Says It 'Wasn't the Best Phrase'

Democratic Congressman Beto O'Rourke of Texas, who is running against incumbent GOP Senator Ted Cruz, continued to distance himself from an insult he levied at the Republican during their most recent debate last week.

"Senator Cruz is not going to be honest with you. He's going to make up positions and votes that I've never held or have ever taken," O'Rourke said during the October 16 debate. "He's dishonest. It's why the president called him 'Lyin' Ted,' and it's why the nickname stuck—because it's true."

By labeling his opponent with the nickname "Lyin' Ted," O'Rourke took a page directly from then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 playbook, who often called Cruz "Lyin' Ted" on the campaign trail. Cruz had insults of his own for Trump, including calling him a "pathological liar" and "a narcissist at a level I don't think this country has ever seen."

In two interviews with different media outlets since that debate, O'Rourke walked back his insult.

"That wasn't the best phrase for me to use," said O'Rourke in a prerecorded interview with ABC News that aired Sunday. "I'm going to do my best to stay focused on the future."

O'Rourke offered a longer explanation during a CNN town hall as to why he chose to use the nickname.

"There have been untold dollars spent on TV ads that are lies, that are dishonest, trying to scare you about me. I went through a whole debate with Senator Cruz where he made up one story after another," O'Rourke said, referring to the two men's first debate. "When he began with yet another lie, I decided that I could either spend the rest of the debate responding to every single dishonest thing he said, or I could make sure everyone understood what he's doing."

O'Rourke said the "Lyin' Ted" comment was "not something I feel totally comfortable with, and perhaps in the heat of the moment I took it a step too far."

But when asked if he regretted the insult, O'Rourke did not say that he did.

"I don't know if that's the way I want to be talking in this campaign," he said.

O'Rourke suggests he regrets calling his Republican opponent Sen. Ted Cruz "Lyin' Ted": "It's not something that I feel totally comfortable with, and perhaps in the heat of the moment I took a step too far"

— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) October 18, 2018

Cruz's immediate response to the insult was to laugh. "Well, it's clear Congressman O'Rourke's pollsters told him to come out on the attack," Cruz said.

Beto O’Rourke uses a President Trump-like insult in the final Texas Senate debate, calling Cruz “lyin’ Ted”

— Fox & Friends First (@FoxFriendsFirst) October 17, 2018

The O'Rourke campaign has so far outraised the Cruz campaign by nearly two to one, but Cruz still holds a steady lead over his Democratic challenger.

Despite the insults levied at Cruz by Trump, which included calling him "Lyin' Ted," calling his wife ugly and implying his father was involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the president will hold a Make America Great Again rally for Cruz on Monday night in Houston. Trump's reelection campaign said it planned to hold a tailgate before the event, featuring "food trucks, live music courtesy of the Marcus Eldridge Band and the Will Carter Band, appearances by Trump campaign spokespeople, big screens to see President Trump's speech and more."

The campaign said it had received 100,000 ticket requests, but the Toyota Center holds roughly 18,000 people. Hopeful rally attendees had already begun lining up and camping out in front of the venue Sunday morning.