Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was forced to answer to his home state’s Republican National Convention delegation first thing Thursday morning, after grabbing headlines the night before for refusing to endorse his party’s nominee, Donald Trump.
The first question from the delegates went straight to the 5,000-pound elephant in the room: “Are you going to vote for Trump?”
“I can tell you I’m not voting Hillary,” Cruz replied to much applause. “I’m going to be listening to Donald tonight. I am going to be listening how he and his campaign will conduct themselves every day from now until November.”
The senator stressed that he did not disparage Trump in his speech and wasn’t going to “go out and throw rocks” at the nominee.
“Whether you want me to or not, I’m not gonna lie to you, and what I said last night is what I believe,” Cruz said.
He also made it clear the decision remains deeply personal.
“I am not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and who attack my father,” the senator said. “[The pledge] was not a blanket commitment that if you go and slander and attack Heidi that I’m gonna nonetheless come like a servile puppy dog and say, ‘Thank you very much for maligning my wife and maligning my father.'”
But Cruz’s tone of principled objection didn’t sit well with members of the delegation, who repeatedly shouted down their senator and berated him for refusing to fall in line.
Delegates shouted “the party has spoken” and suggested Cruz was only helping the Democrats in their efforts to win the White House. Cruz, in turn, accused delegates who disagreed of turning “rabid.”
“What does it say when you stand up and say ‘vote your conscience’ and rabid supporters of our nominee begin screaming, ‘What a horrible thing to say!’” the New York Times quoted Cruz as saying.
In response to one attendee’s yells, Cruz said he wouldn’t “engage in a screaming match. “I actually believe in treating people with civility and respect,” he said, taking a thinly veiled dig at Trump.
Cruz also returned to a common refrain throughout his political career: he’s not here to make friends. He told delegates the party wasn’t a “fraternal order” or “social club.” He also said saving the country isn’t about “blindly chanting a name,” a reference to the crowd’s chants of “We want Trump!” during his speech.
“Can anyone imagine our nominee standing here and answering questions like this?” Cruz said.
Watch a clip of Cruz’s remarks, via ABC News:
Ted Cruz on Trump: “I am not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and who attack my father.” https://t.co/3sRTdei3BV
— ABC News (@ABC) July 21, 2016
This post has been updated.