New Billboard Slams Ted Cruz, Praises Local BBQ Shack Owner Helping Texans

A new billboard in Iowa is giving props to a local restaurant owner providing hot meals to Texans, praising his efforts at the expense of Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), whose foiled plans to vacation in Cancun as his state suffered power outages invited scorn.

Iowa's News Now reported the billboard, which was seen in Cedar Rapids, contained the message "Be a Willie" followed by a thumbs-up and "Not a Ted" with a thumbs-down.

A second billboard showed local BBQ restaurateur Willie Fairley and read: "Leading by example. Thank you! Willie Ray"

Fairley owns Willie Ray's Q Shack, a modest and beloved joint in Cedar Rapids. On Thursday, Fairley announced his intention to head to Texas with his team the following day to help out after a winter storm left millions of Texans without power in freezing temperatures.

Billboard on Blairs Ferry Rd ❤ Venmo Willie Fairley@WillieRaysQShack

Facebook photos and live broadcasts on Sunday showed a mask-clad Fairley grilling generous portions of meat in the parking lot of Dallas' Ramada by Wyndham Dallas Love Field hotel.

According to a volunteer's posts, Fairley's team offered free ribs, hot dogs, chips and water to a long line of Texans.

Barkley Phan, a volunteer who accompanied Fairley from Iowa to Texas, said he was "not really into the politics" of the billboard attacking Cruz.

"This isn't about opposing what bothers you," Phan told Newsweek. "It's about nurturing the community, all community. Willie leads on that example."

Phan told Newsweek the team, comprised of a little less than a dozen volunteers aided by neighborhood locals, has handed out "several hundred meals" over a two-day span.

"It's about easing suffering as best we can and it's one of the more rewarding moments of my life," he said. "This entire team is inspiring."

This is not the first time Fairley has stepped up to fill plates in the wake of a disaster.

According to The Gazette newspaper, he handed out thousands of free meals in Cedar Rapids after a severe derecho ripped through the midwestern U.S. in August 2020.

Resse Smith, an Iowa native residing in Texas who volunteered alongside Fairley, said his generosity in the wake of the derecho compelled her to lend a hand when his team arrived in Dallas.

"They are wonderful people," Smith told Newsweek. "They got off the highway and started getting ready. [...] It was an honor to help such great people."

Newsweek has reached out to Fairley for comment.

On his end, Cruz continues to marinate in his Cancun controversy.

As his constituents were left freezing—with some dying either from the cold or attempts to generate heat—Cruz boarded a flight to Cancun, Mexico with his family last Wednesday. Following the ensuing outrage, the senator returned home the next day.

Cruz—who implied he planned to merely accompany his daughters to their destination and return straight home—was seemingly contradicted when The New York Times published excerpts of a text group chat involving his wife.

In the leaked texts, Heidi Cruz allegedly invited friends to accompany the senator's family on a trip to Cancun away from their "FREEZING" home, suggesting a stay at the Ritz-Carlton costing $309 per night.

Cruz has expressed regret for the apparent mishap but has not explicitly apologized, instead telling reporters he was "trying to be a Dad" and placate his daughters who wanted to escape the cold.

"It certainly was not my intention for that to be understood as critics have tried to paint it, as somehow diminishing the suffering and hardships other Texans had experienced," Cruz said. "It was obviously a mistake, and in hindsight, I wouldn't have done it."

Cruz has since shared photos of himself handing out water bottles in Texas, which also experienced disruptions in supplies of drinking water.

The Iowa billboards came after a truck with a digital billboard mocking Cruz's Cancun trip drove around the senator's neighborhood in Houston, Texas.

Ted Cruz attends Trump's impeachment trial
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) walks out of a meeting room for the lawyers of former President Donald Trump and back to the Senate floor through the Senate Reception room on the fourth day of the Senate Impeachment trials for former President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill on February 12, 2021 in Washington, DC. Cruz has elicited outrage after he left Texas to go to Cancun, Mexico with his family during an unprecedented winter storm that brought freezing temperatures and widespread power outages throughout the state. Jabin Botsford/Pool/Getty Images