Senator Ted Cruz Booed Off the Stage—for Supporting Israel

Ted Cruz
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, holds a news conference in Washington September 9, 2014. Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Republican presidential hopeful and freshman senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, was booed off stage Wednesday night in Washington, D.C.—and he's probably happy about it.

The Tea Party rock star, who famously fomented last year's government shutdown over funding for the Affordable Care Act, was slated to be the keynote speaker at a conference held by a newly formed organization, In Defense of Christians, to draw attention to the persecution of Christian minorities around the world.

But the gathering became wrapped in controversy on Wednesday when the conservative Washington Free Beacon reported that "the roster of speakers includes some of the Assad regime's most vocal Christian supporters, as well as religious leaders allied with the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah." It said the "Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Raï, who was scheduled to speak during the same keynote slot as Cruz on Wednesday evening, has called Israel an 'enemy state that is occupying Lebanese territory' and defended Hezbollah's right to attack the Jewish state."

Appearing before an anti-Israel crowd is, in the United States, a poor political move—unless the crowd boos you off stage for supporting Israel.

According to The Daily Caller, Cruz drew boos from some in the audience by showing solidarity with Israel. "Tonight, we are all united in defense of Christians. Tonight, we are all united in defense of Jews," the senator began his speech. He took the opportunity to make sure he was no fan of Hezbollah, or Syrian dictator Bashar Assad: "ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, state sponsors like Syria and Iran, are all engaged in a vicious genocidal campaign to destroy religious minorities in the Middle East."

"Christians have no greater ally than Israel," he said, as some in the crowd began to boo. "Those who hate Israel hate America."

Undeterred by the catcalls, Cruz continued as some in the audience called for him to leave. "Those who hate Jews hate Christians. If those in this room will not recognize that, then my heart weeps. If you hate the Jewish people you are not reflecting the teachings of Christ. And the very same people who persecute and murder Christians right now, who crucify Christians, who behead children, are the very same people who target Jews for their faith, for the same reason."

Then Cruz exited in dramatic fashion. "If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you. Good night, and God bless."

In Defense of Christians' president, Toufic Baaklini, blamed a "few politically motivated opportunists" for the furor and said they were "made no longer welcome," according to Politico.

Cruz offered his own explanation to the conservative Breitbart News: "Anti-Semitism is a corrosive evil and it reared its ugly head tonight."

Cruz was not the only member of Congress who planned attended the three-day conference. According to the group's website, Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, and representatives Brad Sherman, D-California and Darrell Issa, R-California, were among several members slated to attend.

Watch video of Cruz's speech: