Ted Cruz Apology Shows Tucker Carlson Remains GOP Kingmaker

Tucker Carlson's ability to get Senator Ted Cruz to apologize for comments he has frequently made about the January 6, 2021 attack shows that the Fox News host's influence over the Republican Party is almost untouchable.

On January 6, Cruz appeared on Carlson's Fox News show to backtrack on his comments made he made at a Senate hearing on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the Capitol riot, calling it a "violent terrorist attack."

Carlson was one of several right-wing figures and Donald Trump supporters who criticized Cruz for his remarks on January 5.

On his show later that night, Carlson—who has consistently downplayed the severity of the January 6 attack and helped push a conspiracy theory that it was a "false flag" operation orchestrated by the FBI—questioned why Cruz referred to the riot in such a way.

"What the hell's going on here? You're making us think, maybe the Republican Party is as worthless as we suspected it was," Carlson said. "That can't be true. Reassure us, please, Ted Cruz."

During his appearance on January 6, Cruz said that he messaged Carlson personally after the previous night's show to ask if he can come on and explain what he called "sloppy" and "frankly dumb" comments.

A number of commentators have now said that Carlson getting Cruz to apologize for his own remarks because he disagrees with them, shows the influence the Fox News host has within the GOP and that he is "getting more powerful" than previously thought.

The criticism aimed towards Cruz from Carlson and other Trump supporters arrived despite the fact it was not even the first time the Texas senator called January 6 a terrorist incident.

Cruz said the attack at the Capitol was a "despicable act of terrorism and a shocking assault on our democratic system" in a statement the following day.

He also did so on his podcast Verdict with Ted Cruz on January 25, 2021 and in a press release denouncing a proposed January 6 commission led by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in May.

However, perhaps because it was made on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the attack, the latest comment brought scorn from Carlson, which resulted in Cruz appearing on his show in an apparent attempt to appease the influential Fox News host.

In a show of no mercy, Carlson didn't seem to accept his apology, telling Cruz that he doesn't believe the senator ever uses his words accidentally and that his explanation that he was only referring to those who attacked police officers on January 6 as terrorists "doesn't even make sense."

Democrats saw the interview and groveling apology as another example of Cruz being willing to backtrack or disregard his beliefs in order to hold onto his profile within the GOP and keep a much-needed base for any future presidential run.

This is not the first time Carlson's huge influence on the Republican Party has been apparent.

Carlson's show repeatedly seemed to influence Trump's own policies as president and appeared to play a role in his decision not to retaliate against Iran after they fired missiles at U.S. bases in Iraq in response to the killing of General Qasem Soleimani in January 2020.

Trump is said to have come to the decision after watching Carlson talk about how a war with Iran would be a major mistake and criticizing him for launching the airstrikes which killed the general in the first place.

The CNN newsletter Reliable Sources, written by Brian Stelter and Oliver Darcy, said the interview on Thursday with Cruz shows that Carlson is not only the "effective head of the GOP's media wing" but is only "getting more powerful."

Writing for The Washington Post, reporter Aaron Blake said the interview showed that the "Jan. 6 conspiracy theorist" Carlson "had the real power" in the relationship with the man who was the runner-up in 2016 GOP presidential nomination behind Trump.

"The host literally began the interview by calling Cruz a liar—repeatedly—and Cruz didn't even directly dispute the premise," Blake wrote.

Others also speculated whether the interview is a sign that Carlson's influence in the GOP is so big that there is only one thing for him to do: Run for president himself.

Former GOP strategist Steve Schmidt condemned Cruz's appearance on Carlson's show as an "emasculating lecture from [a] 2024 contender."

Author and journalist Michael Brendan Dougherty said: "Hard not to conclude from that clip that Tucker would beat these guys in a nomination fight."

Cruz has been contacted for comment.

ted cruz apology
It has been suggested that the apology from Ted Cruz (L) over his January 6 comments shows just how much power Tucker Carlson (R) has in the GOP. TOM WILLIAMS-POOL-AFP/ Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images