Ted Cruz Calls for Justice Department to Investigate Netflix Over 'Cuties' Child Porn Claims

Texas senator Ted Cruz has asked the justice department to probe the streaming giant Netflix in response to its distribution of Cuties, a French film facing intense criticism in the U.S. amid claims that it sexualizes children.

In a letter sent to attorney general William Barr, Cruz urged the agency to investigate if the company or its executives had violated federal laws against the production of child abuse material, asserting the award-winning title "sexualizes young girls."

"The film routinely fetishizes and sexualizes these pre-adolescent girls as they perform dances simulating sexual conduct in revealing clothing including at least one scene with partial child nudity. These scenes in and of themselves are harmful," he wrote.

"It is likely that the filming of this move created even more explicit and abusive scenes, and that pedophiles... will manipulate and imitate this film in abusive ways."

Following @netflix’s disturbing promotion of “Cuties,” I sent a letter calling on @TheJusticeDept to investigate whether Netflix, its executives, or the filmmakers violated any federal laws against the production and distribution of child pornography. pic.twitter.com/P7wLXixU6X

— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) September 12, 2020

Cuties, or Mignonnes in French, was helmed by French-Senegalese director Maïmouna Doucouré, who won an award for the title at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.

It tells the story of an 11-year-old girl with a Muslim upbringing who rebels against her conservative family after becoming enraptured by a "free-spirited dance crew."

Intended as a social commentary against the sexualization of young children, it became quite the opposite as Netflix's marketing had the young actors in revealing clothing and posing, fueling a #CancelNetflix campaign that attracted over 600,000 signatures.

Despite the director stressing that the promotional campaign was not representative of the actual film, the situation became a major political talking point in recent days, with elected officials from both sides of the divide blasting Netflix for hosting it.

This is a movie written by a Senegalese French woman pulling from her own experience as a refugee girl. Netflix replaced the original poster with a creepily sexualised one. Stop trying to cancel the movie and start giving Netflix bs instead of ending a potentially+ pic.twitter.com/nw2CwOwb6e

— Alive And Breathing (@AliveAndBreath3) August 23, 2020

Republican member of the Texas House of Representatives Matt Schaefer called for an investigation over "possible violations of child exploitation and child pornography laws."

Democrat Rep. Tulsi Gabbard suggested on Twitter today the movie "will certainly whet the appetite of pedophiles & help fuel the child sex trafficking trade." Missouri Senator Josh Hawley complained about the film in a letter to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings.

In his own letter, published via Twitter today, Cruz wrote: "Although the First Amendment provides vigorous protection for artistic expressions, it does not allow individuals or for-profit corporations to produce or distribute child pornography.

"I urge the Department to investigate the production of 'Cuties' and Netflix's distribution of the film in order to determine whether... anyone involved with the making of "Cuties" violated any federal laws against the production and distribution of child pornography."

Earlier this month, Doucouré defended her work from such criticism, telling Time: "This film tries to show that our children should have the time to be children, and we as adults should protect their innocence and keep them innocent as long as possible."

In August, Netflix apologized for its initial marketing of the movie, admitting that it used "inappropriate artwork" in its campaign that was not representative of the film.

In a statement to Variety, published September 10, a Netflix spokesperson said: "Cuties is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children."

"It's an award-winning film and a powerful story about the pressure young girls face on social media and from society more generally growing up—and we'd encourage anyone who cares about these important issues to watch the movie," the company added.

Sen. Ted Cruz
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks during a hearing of the Judiciary Committee examining issues facing prisons and jails during the COVID-19 pandemic on Capitol Hill on June 02, in Washington, D.C. Tom Williams-Pool/Getty