There are a lot of words one could use to describe Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and if you’ve spent any appreciable amount of time online, there’s a good chance you’ve seen “Zodiac Killer” among them.
But activist Tim Faust, who’s selling “Ted Cruz Was The Zodiac” shirts with the goal of funding abortions for low-income women in West Texas, has no shortage of other suggestions.
“Ted Cruz is low, worse than a snake, reprehensible, an abuser of power,” Faust said in a Thursday phone interview with TPM. “He’s a particular kind of scuzz.”
While Faust is far from the first person to make a “Ted Cruz is the Zodiac” crack—the joke format has been kicking around the internet for years—the meme took on new relevance in 2016, as Cruz vies for the Republican presidential nomination on the national stage.
It’s even gained enough steam for the liberal Public Policy Polling to poll voters on whether they believe Cruz is, in fact, the Zodiac (38 percent of Florida voters think it’s a possibility, while 62 percent say he’s not).
But there’s something about Cruz, a politician whose face is scientifically proven to make some voters squirm, that’s lent staying power to a joke comparing him to the late 1960s serial killer who claimed to commit 37 still-unsolved murders in the San Francisco bay area.
“If you applied the joke to anyone else, it would be a funny nonsequitur, like ‘Dennis Kucinich is the Boston Strangler,’” Faust said. “But Ted Cruz is such a weird, uncomfortable, sleazy guy…he’s the only one that really fits with the Zodiac Killer description.”
Working with Texas-based designer Rory Blank, Faust set up shop earlier this month selling the shirts, which depict the man who could be the next leader of the free world as a hollow-eyed monster. The duo hit their goal of selling 20 shirts on their first night of sales, and by morning, had sold 800 shirts. Today, Faust says they’ve received around 4,000 orders.
Since he was appointed Texas solicitor general in 2003, Cruz has spent his political career trying to limit access to abortion. Faust said that made West Fund, an organization that helps low-income women in El Paso, Texas, get safe abortions, “the only option” for him to donate between $35,000 and $40,000 in proceeds from the shirts.
“It’s hard to overstate how terrible Ted Cruz has been for Texas and for the women of Texas,” Faust, who runs a wrestling league in Austin, said. “He’s used his entire career…exclusively to harm people,” he added, noting that Texas’ restrictive abortion laws disproportionately affect poor women of color.
Cruz’s campaign has never publicly commented on the Zodiac meme, even with a run-of-the-mill denial that the senator is not the killer who for years taunted Bay Area media with cryptic, taunting messages. As political journalists and people not in on the joke have exhaustively pointed out, there are a number of reasons that make it exceedingly unlikely that the Republican presidential candidate is the Zodiac Killer—one being that he wasn’t born yet.
Faust said he hasn’t heard from the Cruz camp and doesn’t expect to (The campaign did not respond Thursday to TPM’s request for comment on this story). But until Cruz denies any link to the murders, he said it all remains “a bit ambiguous.”
“Saying he wasn’t born yet is a pretty good alibi, maybe one that I would use if I was the Zodiac Killer, which I’m not,” he said. “It’s a dumb joke, but an attempt…to help out some women in West Texas and make him sweat a little bit.”