Texas Sen. Ted Cruz flew with his family to Cancún, Mexico, while millions of people in his state suffered without power and water during a freezing winter storm.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News on Thursday afternoon, Cruz said that his daughters wanted to take a trip with their friends after school was canceled for the week.
"Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon," Cruz said. "My staff and I are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas," he said.
He said that it had been "an infuriating week for Texans" and that "like millions of Texans, our family lost heat and power too."
In a radio interview on Tuesday, Cruz said that his house was "lucky" that it hadn't lost power like some of their neighbors' homes.
"The greatest state in the greatest country in the world has been without power," Cruz said in his statement. "We have food lines, gas lines, and people sleeping at the neighbors’ houses. Our homes are freezing and our lights are out."
Photos showed Cruz flying back to Houston on Thursday.
Cruz also spoke to NBC News' Telemundo reporters at the Cancún airport.
Social media photos showed Cruz and his wife, Heidi Cruz, boarding a United Airlines flight to the sunny holiday destination from Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport on Wednesday.
The Houston Police Department confirmed to BuzzFeed News that a member of Cruz’s staff had contacted police personnel at Houston's airport on Wednesday afternoon and "requested assistance upon the Senator’s arrival at the airport."
Houston police officers monitored Cruz's movements after he had arrived at Terminal E, the department said.
United Airline flight status details online showed that UA Flight 1020 departed IAH from Terminal E at 4:44 p.m. on Wednesday and was scheduled to arrive in Cancún at 7:52 p.m.
The airline declined to confirm if Cruz was a passenger, saying it does not provide passenger information.
The senator's departure to Cancún for a family vacation prompted widespread outrage. For days, Texans have been without electricity and struggling to access food and water and stay warm amid freezing temperatures.
Beto O'Rourke, the former El Paso lawmaker and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, blamed Republican leaders like Cruz for the state's power crisis, telling MSNBC on Thursday that the senator "is vacationing in Cancún right now when people are literally freezing to death in the state that he was elected to represent and serve."
The deaths of at least 10 people have been connected to the frigid temperatures in Texas, which largely runs its own electrical grid that had not been adequately weather-proofed to operate in drastic weather conditions.
At least 7 million Texans have been ordered to boil tap water before drinking it because of frozen and damaged pipes and low water pressure. Food supplies are running out, and frozen bodies have been discovered on sidewalks and roadways in the state. Residents have warmed themselves by using their stoves, candles, barbecue grills, generators, and vehicles, leading to cases of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Speaking on The Joe Pags Show on Tuesday, Cruz urged Texas residents to stay at home and "hug your kids" during the winter storm.
The senator said a meteorologist had told him that the combination of two winter storms "could see up to 100 people lose their lives this week in Texas."
He said the storm was "dangerous" and that people should not risk their lives venturing outside.
"Keep your family safe, and just stay home and hug your kids," Cruz said.
He also said some neighborhood kids were at his home running around and playing with his children on Tuesday because their houses had lost power while his house was "lucky" that it didn't lose power.
Some pointed to one of Cruz's tweets from December in which he berated the mayor of Austin for flying to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, in early November while encouraging city residents to stay at home during the coronavirus pandemic.
"Ted Cruz jetting off to Mexico while Texans remain dying in the cold isn’t surprising but it is deeply disturbing and disappointing," Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement, calling for the senator to resign. "Cruz is emblematic of what the Texas Republican Party and its leaders have become: weak, corrupt, inept, and self-serving politicians who don’t give a damn about the people they were elected to represent."
On Thursday afternoon, Cruz was spotted getting off his return flight in Houston with a carry-on bag. He was accompanied by a police escort to US customs.
Afterward, he told reporters that he had regretted leaving almost immediately upon boarding the plane for Cancún but insisted he was taking care of his family "the way Texans all across the state were."
"It was obviously a mistake, and in hindsight I shouldn’t have done it," he said. "I was trying to be a dad."