During a fiery Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) at one point defended parents throwing up Nazi salutes at school board meetings.
Cruz, along with other Republicans, lambasted Attorney General Merrick Garland for directing the Justice Department this month to investigate the rise in violent threats against educators. That rise has coincided with right-wing media fueling fury over mask mandates and so-called critical race theory.
Referencing a letter written by the National School Boards Association, Cruz asserted that many of the examples of threats the NSBA cited were “non-violent” and exaggerated, adding that one instance involved school board meeting attendees doing fascist gestures as a way to insult board members.
“My God! A parent did a Nazi salute at a school board because they thought the policies were oppressive,” Cruz dramatically exclaimed. “General Garland, is doing a Nazi salute at an elected official, is that protected by the First Amendment?”
“Yes, it is,” Garland calmly replied, prompting Cruz to then claim the memo to the FBI says “go investigate parents as domestic terrorists.”
The AG noted that his memo doesn’t say that “at all,” causing Cruz to respond that the NSBA’s letter does. “I don’t care what the letter says,” the attorney general shot back.
The school board association’s letter to the president calling for him to act against “threats and acts of violence” does include a reference to domestic terrorism—language the NSBA has since apologized for and walked back following intense conservative backlash.
At the same time, as Garland himself repeatedly told the senator on Wednesday, his Oct. 4 memo to the Justice Department “says nothing about domestic terrorism” and that he was also reacting to “public reports of violence and threats of violence.”
Cruz would later take to Twitter to defend his defense of Nazi salutes at school board meetings.
“Lefty journos are either (1) dishonest or (2) not very bright (or both),” the senator wrote in response to one journalist’s tweet. “The parent was doing the Nazi salute because he was calling the authoritarian school board Nazis—evil, bad & abusive. And yes, calling someone a Nazi is very much protected by the First Amendment.”