Before winning the Iowa caucuses, Sen. Ted Cruz won a straw poll of Religious Right leaders who were determined to coalesce behind a single candidate before voting went underway. Since then, hardly a week has gone by without the Cruz campaign announcing the support of a new right-wing leader, on top of the campaign’s frequent suggestions that the Texas Republican has divine support for his presidential bid.
It seems that no figure is too extreme to be embraced by Cruz, including those who would wish to see the government putting their adversaries to death.
Last Fall, Cruz appeared in Iowa alongside a pastor who has called for the government to use the death penalty to punish homosexuality. Not stung from the criticism he received for courting the radical pastor, Kevin Swanson, Cruz he later released a statement touting the support of an anti-abortion extremist, Troy Newman, who has said that a just government would punish abortion providers with death. Again facing criticism, Cruz doubled down and appointed Newman co-chair of his “pro-life coalition.”
As it turned out, Newman was just one of the first of many extremists whose support has been touted by Cruz’s campaign.
Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council, an anti-LGBT hate group, helped coalesce Religious Right support behind Cruz and campaigned with the senator in Iowa. Cruz apparently sees it as helpful to campaign alongside Perkins, who has defended Uganda’s “kill-the-gays” bill and claimed that gay rights advocates are pawns of the Devil.
Perkins joined Cruz on the trail in Iowa along with Glenn Beck, the conspiracy theory radio host; David Barton, the right-wing pseudo-historian who heads one of the leading pro-Cruz super PACs and who, like Beck, has declared Cruz to be God’s answer to his prayers; reality TV star Phil Robertson, notorious for making bigoted remarks; James Dobson, the anti-gay radio personality who founded Focus on the Family; Rep. Steve King, the congressman known for his anti-gay and anti-immigrant tirades; Bob Vander Plaats, the Iowa political organizer who describes homosexuality as a “public health risk” similar to smoking; and far-right radio broadcaster Steve Deace.
Other endorsers touted by the Cruz campaign have included North Carolina activists who have referred to gay people as Satan’s minions; a North Carolina pastor who has likened gay people to “maggots” and linked them to Ebola; an Oklahoma preacher who warns that homosexuality is part of a demonic communist conspiracy to bring down America; a Virginia radio host who has blamed gays for everything from terrorism to train derailments; and a Virginia lawmaker who has sponsored an assortment of bizarre anti-gay bills.
Most recently, Cruz welcomed the endorsement of Mike Bickle, the leader of a church that many have criticized for using cult-like practices, who has referred to Oprah Winfrey as a harbinger of the Antichrist, called gay rights as a Satanic plot that will usher in the End Times, and explained that Adolf Hitler was raised up by God to be a “hunter” of Jews.
Cruz’s decision to tout such radical activists — not to mention his own extreme policy positions, such as promising to defy the Supreme Court on marriage equality and abortion rights — is no accident, as he is basing his campaign strategy on the hope that he can motivate tens of millions of conservative evangelicals to go to the polls.
With Cruz now seemingly working his way into front-runner status, we fully expect to see him pick up more, and even more radical, Religious Right endorsements as the GOP primary heats up.