Will The Very Anti-Gay, Mormon-Owned Brigham Young University Be Allowed to Join The Big 12 Conference?
Testing NCAA’s Commitment to Inclusion:Â Big 12 Conference Considers Membership Application of BYU
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has in recent years emerged as an advocate for equality in college athletics. Its website includes a number of LGBT resources and statements affirming its commitment to inclusion. Moreover, it has matched its words with action, using its economic power to protect LGBT athletes and fans from discrimination.
Its commitment to inclusion will soon be tested again as one of its â€œpower conferencesâ€ considers the membership application of Brigham Young University, a school notorious for its discrimination against LGBT students, faculty, and staff.
NCAA as Advocate for Inclusion
In the spring of 2015, when Indiana Governor Mike Pence (now the Republican Party’s candidate for Vice President) signed into law an odious â€œReligious Freedom Restoration Actâ€ that would have allowed businesses to refuse service to LGBT patrons on the basis of â€œsincerely held religious beliefs,â€ NCAA president Mark EmmertÂ spoke out forcefully against the legislation and implied that the NCAA, which is headquartered in Indianapolis, was prepared not only to relocate its headquarters, where some 500 employees work, but also to move any future championships and tournaments scheduled to be played in the state.
â€œ[Inclusion and diversity] are values that are fundamental to what college athletics are all about and what higher education is all about,â€ Emmert said. â€œFor us personally in the NCAA, this is a big deal. Weâ€™re very proud of the inclusive environment in our office. Weâ€™re very proud of the environment that weâ€™ve created here and we donâ€™t want to lose that. We donâ€™t want to have it put at risk.â€
He added, â€œWe hold lots and lots of events. Weâ€™re going to have our national convention here, our offices are here. We have to say, â€˜What are we going to do if this law goes into effect in July? Whatâ€™s our relationship with the state of Indiana going to be?’â€
In the face of massive negative reaction to the â€œReligious Freedom Restoration Act,â€ the bill was significantly revised and its invitation to discriminate removed. Hence, Emmert did not have to go through with the implied threat.
More recently, in response to North Carolina’s discriminatory HB2, a law that nullified protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and prohibited transgender people from using public restrooms that do not conform to the gender on their birth certificates, the NCAA Board of Governors took steps to protect participants and spectators from discrimination at NCAA events.
On April 27, 2016, the NCAAÂ Â announced that it had added a new requirement for sites hosting or bidding on NCAA events: they must demonstrate how they will provide â€œan environment that is safe, healthy, and free of discrimination, plus safeguards the dignity of everyone involved in the event.â€
Explaining that the Association considers the promotion of inclusiveness in race, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity a vital element in protecting the well-being of student-athletes and creating a culture of fairness, Kirk Schulz, president of Kansas State University and chair of NCAA’s Board of Governors, said â€œThe higher education community is a diverse mix of people from different racial, ethnic, religious, and sexual orientation backgrounds. So it is important that we assure that communityâ€”including our student-athletes and fansâ€”will always enjoy the experience of competing, and watching, at NCAA championships without concerns of discrimination.â€
Inasmuch as NCAA championships and tournaments often inject millions of dollars into the economies of host cities and states, the new requirement serves notice that failure to protect LGBT people from discrimination may be costly, as will so-called â€œreligious libertyâ€ bills that encourage discrimination against LGBT people.
On July 22, the Association released a questionnaire that cities that are interested in hosting future NCAA events must complete, along with specific steps they intend to follow to make certain that all participants and fans are protected from discrimination.
Big 12 Expansion
The NCAA will soon face a major test of its commitment to LGBT rights and inclusion. One of its premier conferences, the Big 12, which now consists of only ten universities, mainly in the Southwest and the Great Plains, recently announced that it would explore plans to expand, at least to its original size of twelve and possibly beyond.
The Big 12, which shrank as a result of a series of conference realignments over the past twenty years, has slipped behind the SEC, the Big Ten, and the Pac-12 conferences on a number of measures. It now consists of the following members: Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas Christian University, and West Virginia.
Upon the conference’s announcement that it had authorized commissioner Bob Bowlsby to begin negotiations with prospective candidates, Brigham Young University, currently a member of no conference but with a large national fan base and a big stadium, indicated interest in being considered for membership. Indeed, among sports writers and fans, BYU quickly became the leading candidate for admission, along with such other schools as the University of Houston, Colorado State University, University of Cincinnati, Boise State University, and the University of Memphis, among others.
In response to the speculation that BYU would be granted membership in the Big 12, Athlete Ally, an organization devoted to ending homophobia and transphobia in sports, along with more than twenty other organizations, issued a letterÂ on August 8 opposing membership for BYU.
Signed by such organizations as the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the National LGBTQ Task Force, GLAAD, Campus Pride, Soulforce, and the National Organization for Women, the letter asserted that â€œAdding BYU would be inconsistent with Big 12 Conference membership values.â€
It pointed out that â€œBYU . . . actively and openly discriminates against its LGBT students and staff. It provides no protections for LGBT students. In fact, through its policies, BYU is very clear about its intent to discriminate against openly LGBT students, with sanctions that can include suspension or dismissal for being openly LGBT or in a same-sex relationship.â€
The letter noted that â€œBYU’s anti-LGBT policies violate both Big 12 guidelines and NCAA guidelinesâ€ and argues that adding BYU would undermine Big 12 values.
[Salt Lake City television station KSL reported on the letter and interviewed Athlete Ally founder Hudson Taylor.]
Indeed, the Big 12 Conference Handbook includes several references to discrimination, diversity, gender equity, and fairness. For example, in addition to affirming the conference’s commitment to observe Title IX requirements that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender and sexual orientation, the Conference Handbook also says, â€œThe Conference shall not schedule (nor participate in) any regular or postseason competition or event at sites, venues or facilities which have membership restrictions or practices which result in discrimination on the basis of gender.â€
The Handbook also spells out a policy on Diversity: â€œConsistent with NCAA Constitution 2.7, the Conference and its Member Institutions are committed to cultural diversity, promoting respect and sensitivity to the dignity of every person and fostering participation of all in competition, administration and governance. It is the obligation of each Member Institution to refrain from discrimination prohibited by federal and state law, and to demonstrate a commitment to fair and equitable treatment of all student-athletes and athletics department personnel.â€
As part of its Diversity policy, the Conference pledges to â€œEncourage an atmosphere throughout the Conference among staff and student athletes that demonstrates respect and support for each individual. As such, within the context of Conference events, the Conference will not tolerate disparaging comments, remarks, or jokes about any group of people including racist, sexist, or homophobic comments, remarks, or jokes.â€
It is difficult to see how BYU can meet such requirements.
Brigham Young University
BYU is owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), a religion that has been at the very center of efforts to deprive LGBT people of equal rights in the United States and abroad. In many ways, BYU is less a university as generally understood than an indoctrination project of the Mormon Church, which sometimes refers to it as the â€œLord’s University.â€
It severely restricts academic freedom and limits any criticism by faculty members or students that contradicts church doctrine or policy.
[The video below, from BYU’s admissions office, hyperbolically describes the school as a “world-class institution of higher learning.”]
BYU also imposes on students and faculty an Honor Code that is rigorously enforced and almost absurdly detailed. The code covers everything from academic honesty, dress and grooming standards, the use of alcohol and tobacco to what rooms guests in residential housing may enter. Not only are gambling, obscene or indecent conduct or expressions, disorderly or disruptive conduct, and involvement with pornographic, erotic, indecent, or offensive material prohibited, but so is “any other conduct or action inconsistent with the principles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
At one time homosexual impulses as well as homosexual behavior were punished (including by aversion therapy and reparative therapy, among other means). Now the recently revised Honor Code distinguishes between homosexual orientation and homosexual behavior, with only the latter subject to punishment. The university apparently believes that punishing someone on the basis of their homosexual conduct is more acceptable in polite society than persecuting someone on the basis of their homosexual orientation.
The section on â€œHomosexual Behaviorâ€ reads as follows:
â€œBrigham Young University will respond to homosexual behavior rather than to feelings or attraction and welcomes as full members of the university community all whose behavior meets university standards. Members of the university community can remain in good Honor Code standing if they conduct their lives in a manner consistent with gospel principles and the Honor Code.
One’s stated same-gender attraction is not an Honor Code issue. However, the Honor Code requires all members of the university community to manifest a strict commitment to the law of chastity. Homosexual behavior is inappropriate and violates the Honor Code. Homosexual behavior includes not only sexual relations between members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings.â€Â
The video below, posted in 2012 by BYU student members of an unrecognized student group called â€œUnderstanding Same-Gender Attraction,â€ recounts the painful experiences of several LGBT students who have come out under very difficult conditions. The video is heartbreaking both because of what these young people have had to endure and, equally, because they seem to have reached a spectacularly erroneous conclusion as to how to make things get better. The LDS Church should be deeply ashamed of the spiritual terrorism it has inflicted on these and millions of other LGBT young people.
As a private university governed by a religious organization, BYU has been granted an exemption from certain Title IX requirements by the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. It is also exempt from Utah’s nondiscrimination statutes. Hence, however repugnant the university’s discriminatory policies are, they are not illegal.
Moreover, no one is forced to attend such a repressive institution (though, of course, many LDS youth experience enormous family and community pressure to attend the “Lord’s University”). People who voluntarily subject themselves to the policing strictures of BYU’s Honor Code may deserve sympathy, but they cannot claim to having been duped since the university widely publicizes its expectations and values.Â
But simply because BYU’s discrimination is both legal and well known does not make it acceptable.
Response to Athlete Ally’s Letter
In response to the letter asking the Big 12 conference to reject Brigham Young University’s application for membership, the university’s athletic director Tom Holcomb issued a brief statement via Twitter: “LGBT players, coaches and fans are always welcome to the BYU campus. Everyone should be treated with respect, dignity and love.”
Another university spokesman said,Â “BYU welcomes as full members of the university community all whose conduct meets university standards. We are very clear and open about our honor code, which all students understand and commit to when they apply for admission. One’s stated sexual orientation is not an issue.”
Such a statement, of course, does not address the real issues posed by the letter. The question is not only whether visitors are treated with respect, or whether students are aware of the Honor Code, but also, and more pertinently, whether the discrimination practiced by Brigham Young University against its LGBT faculty and students, including student-athletes, is consistent with the values of the NCAA.
Unsurprisingly, supporters of BYU are casting themselves as victims, saying that intolerant gay bullies are advocating discrimination against them for their religious beliefs. Some are even alleging that the letter abridges the university’s First Amendment rights.
But Athlete Ally is not challenging BYU’s right to believe or practice their religious beliefs. Rather, it is challenging the NCAA to practice its own widely-touted commitment to diversity and inclusion.Â
Even BYU Law School professor Lynn Wardle recognizes that BYU has “no right to join” the Big 12. “It’s a free association issue,” not a First Amendment issue, he told Salt Lake Tribune reporter Peggy Fletcher Stack. However, he believes the attempt to keep BYU out of the Big 12 is simplyÂ “an opportunity to put pressure on BYU and embarrass it.”
By minimizing the issue of discrimination, Wardle is typical of his co-religionists in refusing to acknowledge the consequences of the discrimination practiced by his church.
In contrast, several openly gay Big 12 athletes and former athletes have expressed trepidation about traveling to BYU to compete. Former University of Oklahoma pole vaulter Tanner Williams said “I would like to see any athlete feel comfortable to be who they are in the Big 12. Adding a school that is homonegative can destroy that type of atmosphere.”
He stated that he would refuse to travel to BYU for a meet were he still competing. “LGBT athletes should not have to compete at a school where they do not feel comfortable or accepted,” he said.
Former TCU football playerÂ Vince Pryor also told Salt Lake TribuneÂ reporter Aaron Falk that he would be apprehensive about traveling to BYU.
Pryor said that he would be disappointed were BYU welcomed into the Big 12 without making a change. “This is a huge opportunity for people on both sides of the fence, the Big 12 and BYU, to make a statement about what kind of organization and what kind of conference they’re going to be.”
OutsportsÂ co-founder Cyd Zeigler recently pointed out that other current and prospective members of the Big 12 also have problematic records of LGBT acceptance, but noted that “Probably no school has a longer, darker history in oppressing LGBT students and student-athletes than BYU.”
Pointing to the mental and emotional torment that BYU forces upon its LGBT students, he concludes that “Adding BYU to the Big 12 would be a complete rejection of the equality of LGBT people by the conference.”
It is not known exactly when the Big 12 will make its decision concerning Brigham Young University’s bid to join the conference. The decision could come at any time, but many observers believe that it will be announced in October, when its governing board has a regularly scheduled meeting.
BYU brings much to the table, including a huge fan base, good facilities, and a passion for sport. However, it also brings a great deal of baggage. In addition to its long and ugly history of homophobia, the university is also under investigation for its handling of sexual assaults. Allegedly, women who have reported sexual assaults have themselves been punished for violations of the Honor Code.
The reputation of the LDS Church has been damaged by its political activities directed against equal rights, but its leaders seem not to have learned very much. More importantly, church leaders seem unconcerned about the suffering they cause their own LGBT members and fail to connect the dots between their homophobic policies and statements and the alarming rates of suicide among LDS youth.
I do not harbor any illusions that sports activists will change BYU’s homophobic policies, but they deserve commendation for highlighting those polices and pointing out their inconsistency with NCAA’s stated commitment to inclusion.
Their efforts need to be placed in the context of the sports activism of the 1960s and 1970s, when athletes played a role in drawing attention to the LDS Church’s discriminatory racial policies that barred Blacks from the priesthood and from participating in most temple ordinances. A number of athletes and several universities, including Stanford, protested those policies by refusing to compete with BYU.
After decades of pressure, in 1978 church leaders finally announced that they had received a “revelation” that “every faithful, worthy man in the church may receive the Holy Priesthood.”
The NCAA has previously shown that it has the courage of its convictions. I hope that it will once again affirm its commitment to equal rights and and refuse to turn a blind eye to BYU’s blatant discrimination.
Image by Ken LundÂ via Flickr and a CC licenseÂ
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Buttigieg: Republicans Are Targeting LGBTQ People Because They ‘Don’t Want to Talk About’ Their Own ‘Radical Positions’
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg blasted Republicans attacking the LGBTQ community on Tuesday, saying the reason right-wing lawmakers have decided to target them is they don’t want to talk about their “radical positions,” including opposing President Joe Biden’s massive infrastructure law and other accomplishments, like $35 insulin.
Appearing on MSNBC, Secretary Buttigieg was asked to weigh in on the Human Rights Campaign’s declaration earlier in the day, of a national emergency in the U.S. for LGBTQ people.
“We have officially declared a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people in the United States for the first time following an unprecedented and dangerous spike in anti-LGBTQ+ legislative assaults sweeping state houses this year,” the organizations says on its website. “More than 75 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been signed into law this year alone, more than doubling last year’s number, which was previously the worst year on record.”
HRC also published a detailed chart by state on various issues, including bans on gender-affirming care, sports participation, drag, or support for forced student outing.
And while HRC points to the more than 75 bills that have been signed into law this year, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says it’s currently tracking 491 anti-LGBTQ bills across the country.
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“Our country is at a very real risk of backsliding on freedom and equality but that is exactly why we continue to push. There has been extraordinary work that’s been done just in this presidency,” Buttigieg said, responding to HRC’s national emergency declaration. He specifically pointed to “the President being able to sign the Respect for Marriage Act.”
“And if you zoom out to the progress that’s been made in the last 10 or 15 years, including the ability of somebody like me to be standing here doing this job, it’s extraordinary, and yet, now you see the attacks on the LGBTQ community, especially on the trans community and what they’re going through,” Buttigieg, who is the first out gay U.S. Cabinet Secretary, told MSNBC’s Chris Jansing.
“And I think it’s being done out of the perception that it is politically convenient to target vulnerable groups. And honestly, I think where it largely comes from is folks who don’t want to talk about why they were against the infrastructure loans, building roads and bridges. They don’t want to talk about why they were against $35 insulin that the President delivered for Medicare recipients. They don’t want to explain why they were for these radical positions that speak to what those people are worried about their everyday lives.”
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“So they’re focused on targeting some of the people who already do not have a very easy time going about everyday life,” he said.
“Think about how hard it is to be a teenager to begin with. But think about how hard it is to be a teenager when you realize that you are different when you’re coming to terms with your gender identity or you’re coming to terms with realizing that you’re gay or lesbian.”
“The last thing you need in your life are politicians trying to score political points by making things worse for you. We’re gonna stand together, whether it’s pride or just on any given day and say no, we’re going to expand, not withdraw, the freedoms and equalities we won in this country, and we’re going to build on them.”
Bill Barr Slams Trump: DOJ Not ‘Conducting a Witch Hunt’ – ‘He Jerked Them Around’ – ‘No Excuse for What He Did’
Bill Barr, once Donald Trump‘s favorite attorney general and the one who was seen as his “faithful protector and personal henchman” for his “willingness to enable Trump’s darkest impulses,” came out swinging against his former boss Tuesday, refuting his “witch hunt” claims, and saying the ex-president “jerked” DOJ around over hundreds of classified and top secret documents he refused to return.
“I think if based on the facts, as the facts come out, I think over time, people will say that this is not a case of the Department of Justice, you know, conducting a ‘witch hunt,'” Barr told CBS News Tuesday, ahead of what many believe is an impending indictment on what experts say could include charges of obstruction of justice and charges under the Espionage Act.
“In fact,” Barr continued, praising his former agency, “they approached this very delicately, with deference to the President, and this would have gotten nowhere had the President just returned the documents.”
Instead, Barr said, Trump “jerked them around for a year and a half. And the question is, did he deceive them? And if there’s evidence of that, I think people will start to see that this says more about Trump than it does the Department of Justice.”
The ex-president who is once again running to retake the Oval Office, Barr says, is “so egotistical that he has this penchant for conducting risky, reckless acts to show that he can sort of get away with it.”
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“It’s part of asserting his his, his ego, and he’s done this repeatedly at the expense of all the people who depend on him to conduct the public’s business in an honorable way. And, you know, we saw that with both impeachments, and there’s no excuse for what he did here.”
Referring to what many believe is an impending indictment over the classified documents he removed from the White House and refused to return, Barr added, “I’ve said for a while that I think this is the most dangerous legal risk facing the former president. And if I had to bet I would bet that it’s near.”
He said DOJ would not try to indict “if there’s not enough evidence, but from what I’ve seen, there’s substantial evidence there.”
But true to form, Barr also defended his former boss.
Whether what Trump’s done is “a crime or not remains to be seen,” he said, while refusing to weigh in on whether or not he thinks Trump “deceived” DOJ.
Later in the interview, Barr went full-force on supporting Trump’s claims that the Russia investigation was a hoax.
“I went into the administration halfway through, and I did it at a time where I felt he was being treated unfairly on the Russia gate thing. I thought that was, you know, turned out to be I think a big lie,” Barr said.
“And I felt that he was the duly elected president and he deserved a chance to conduct his administration. And I went in because I thought I could help stabilize things and also have the administration conducted in an appropriate way. And as I felt the idea that the election was stolen was a big lie.”
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And despite it all, despite everything that has come out about Trump’s actions and alleged actions, despite the looming indictment – on top of a current indictment – Barr says if Trump is the Republican party’s nominee for president he will still support him.
“I don’t see myself not supporting the Republican candidate,” Barr said.
Taking a swing at President Joe Biden, Barr said neither the current nor the former president are “fit for the office.”
“But if I’m confronted with that choice, I have to go with policy, who’s closest to me on policy, regardless of who might be convicted of breaking the law, including on our national secrets.”
Watch a clip from the interview below or at this link.
Bill Barr on the classified documents investigation:
“This is not a case of the DOJ conducting a witch hunt…This would have gone nowhere had the president just returned the documents, but he jerked them around for a year and a half…There is no excuse for what he did here.” pic.twitter.com/dYWzauBqjo
— Republican Accountability (@AccountableGOP) June 6, 2023
‘Isn’t There a Beach in Mexico Waiting for You?’: Cruz Mocked for Claiming Garland Will Indict Trump Over SCOTUS Seat Loss
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is being roundly mocked after claiming Attorney General Merrick Garland will indict Donald Trump because he “hates” the ex-president and because he is angry his early 2016 nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court was blocked.
“They hypocrisy is massive,” Sen. Cruz declared on Fox News Monday night. “And mark my words: I believe Merrick Garland will indict Donald Trump. He wants to indict Donald Trump because he hates Donald Trump. He hates him – he’s angry – Merrick Garland is angry that he wasn’t confirmed to the Supreme Court. he wants to indict him.”
Cruz, who has a law degree from Harvard, is wrong on the basic facts, and he’s being widely mocked for it.
As many are pointing out, first, Attorney General Garland appointed Jack Smith as Special Prosecutor. Smith, who was appointed as Acting U.S. Attorney by Donald Trump in 2017, will make the decision on whether or not to present charges to a grand jury. The grand jury, not Garland and not Smith, will make the decision on whether or not to indict Trump.
Also, whether or not Garland has any anger about not being confirmed by the U.S. Senate, that anger would rightly be pointed to then Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who took the unprecedented step of refusing to even allow a committee hearing to consider his nomination.
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McConnell did that in early 2016, even before Trump was the GOP’s presidential nominee. Trump had nothing to do with blocking Garland’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Cruz: Mark my words, I believe Garland will indict Donald Trump. He wants to indict Trump because he hates Trump. He’s angry that he wasn’t confirmed to the Supreme Court pic.twitter.com/fubdJlOAvt
— Acyn (@Acyn) June 6, 2023
“This is dangerous,” warned foreign policy and intelligence expert John Sipher, who spent nearly three decades in the Central Intelligence Agency’s National Clandestine Service. “He knows what he’s doing and he’s risking violence.”
After Cruz’s Fox News appearance, he posted video of his own remarks and baselessly tweeted, “Merrick Garland is the most partisan Attorney General in American history. He has corrupted the DOJ, the FBI, and the machinery of government. And now, out of nothing but a sense of hatred and political retribution, Garland is trying to indict Trump.”
Later, on Tuesday he added, “Merrick Garland has corrupted the Department of Justice and effectively turned it into an arm of the Democratic National Committee. The FBI and DOJ want to protect and insulate Joe Biden and the Biden family’s corruption.”
None of his allegations have any basis in publicly-known fact.
Cruz came under fire in 2021 after advising Trump’s legal team during the ex-president’s second impeachment, even though he would also be a juror – and supposedly impartial – in Trump’s Senate trial. In December of 2020 Cruz told Trump he would “be happy” to argue a proposed Supreme Court lawsuit designed to keep Trump in power despite having lost the election one month earlier.
Author Cliff Schecter labeled Cruz’s claims on Fox News, “Complete horses*t, which is Ted’s brand.”
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“But, if true, Garland would be doing more re his SCOTUS rejection than @tedcruz did when Trump called his wife ugly,” he added. “Ted doesn’t get why Garland wouldn’t just make hostage video phone calls for Trump’s campaign.”
Historian and author Kevin M. Kruse: “The line that ‘they’re only indicting Trump for the crimes Trump clearly did because they hate Trump’ is pathetic when it comes from Trump himself, but Jesus Christ, it is twelve kinds of sad when it comes from one of his lickspittles.”
Reporter and award-winning columnist David Lazarus noted, “Republicans keep insisting Trump is being investigated and prosecuted because people in power hate him. That’s one theory. Or Trump is being investigated and prosecuted because he kept breaking the law.”
Lincoln Project co-founder Jennifer Horn, a former New Hampshire Republican State Committee chair, blasted Cruz.
“I’m sure it has nothing to do with classified documents or inciting an insurrection,” she said, referring to the two major portions of Smith’s investigation. And referring to Cruz’s infamous exit during a state-wide crisis when he hightailed out to Cancun, she asked: “Isn’t there a beach in Mexico waiting for you?”
Watch video of Cruz above or at this link.
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