UVALDE, Texas — Sen. Ted Cruz called a reporter a "propagandist" after refusing to explain why he doesn't think lax gun laws have anything to do with mass shootings before storming out of a hall following a vigil for the Uvalde school shooting victims on Wednesday.
In a viral video of the interaction, Cruz angrily accuses Sky News reporter Mark Stone of having a "political agenda" for grilling him about gun reform.
"But why does this only happen in your country?" Stone asks. "I really think that's what many people are around the world — they cannot fathom why only in America? Why is this American exceptionalism so awful?"
"You know, I'm sorry you think American exceptionalism is awful. You've got your political agenda. God love you," Cruz says before turning away.
"Senator, it's not, I just want to understand why you do not think that guns are the problem," Stone responds.
"Why is this just an American problem?" BuzzFeed News reporter Paige Skinner interjects as the Texas senator walks away. "Why is America the only country that faces this kind of mass shooting?"
"You can't answer that, can you sir?" Stone adds. "You can't answer that."
Cruz then turns around and confronts Stone. "Why is it that people come from all over the world to America? Because it's the freest, most prosperous, safest country on Earth, and stop being a propagandist," he says before storming out of the hall.
A notoriously gun-friendly state, Texas has had 21 mass shootings so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, including the school shooting in Uvalde that killed 19 children and 2 adults. Each time, its top officials — including Cruz and Gov. Greg Abbott — condemn the violence and offer "thoughts and prayers" to the families, while batting down questions about gun reform.
In the wake of the shooting at the elementary school on Tuesday, Texas lawmakers have attempted to frame the issue of mass shootings solely as a mental health one, refusing to even acknowledge that the staggering prevalence of guns in the state could at all be a factor.
Cruz himself is an avowed gun rights champion. He has an A+ rating from the NRA and frequently votes against measures aimed at hindering gun violence. Similar to Wednesday's comments, he has accused Democrats and the media of politicizing the issue when discussions about gun laws come up after a mass shooting.
Gun violence is a uniquely American problem, one characterized by the American Public Health Association as a public health crisis. It is a leading cause of premature death in the country, responsible for more than 38,000 deaths annually. At least 17,320 people have died from gun violence so far this year, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive.