Media outlets were eager to push the false narrative that Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, supported Nazi salutes on Thursday.
On Wednesday, liberal writer Aaron Rupar posted a clip of Cruz arguing with Attorney General Merrick Garland during a Senate committee hearing. During the clip, Cruz denounced the National School Board Association’s letter to the Biden administration that compared protesting parents to domestic terrorists.
One of Cruz’s criticisms included the fact that the NSBA cited parents giving Nazi salutes in mocking offense of school board members as a threat of violence. Cruz called out this action, noting that mock Nazi salutes to officials is protected speech.
“General Garland, is doing a Nazi salute at an elected official, is that protected by the First Amendment?” Cruz asked.
“Yes, it is,” Garland answered.
However, Rupar promoted the clip as “Ted Cruz defends Nazi salutes at school board meetings.”
Although Garland also defended Nazi salutes as protected speech, several media outlets framed the story solely as Cruz defending and supporting Nazi salutes.
The Daily Beast published an article titled “Ted Cruz Defends Parents Doing Nazi Salutes at School Board Meetings,” which claimed the Republican senator “at one point defended parents throwing up Nazi salutes at school board meetings” when Cruz actually asked if such a gesture was protected by the First Amendment.
HuffPo similarly followed suit by writing the headline “Sen. Ted Cruz Defends Parent Who Gave Nazi Salute At School Board Meeting.” While HuffPo did acknowledge that Garland himself agrees that Nazi salutes as protest were protected speech, the site also appeared to frame Cruz as supporting Nazi salutes as a whole.
That misleading narrative spread to the mainstream media as well with both MSNBC and CNN reporting on the clip. MSNBC’s Ari Melber argued that, while a Nazi salute is technically protected speech, that Cruz is excusing “efforts that foment harassment and violence.”
“The issues at that oversight hearing were the rising hate in America, which is wrong, and these efforts that foment harassment and violence which are illegal,” Melber said.
CNN’s John Avlon was also misleading in his “Reality Check” segment, framing the situation as not an argument about First Amendment rights but about Cruz supporting indecency. The headline underneath him read “Sorry, Ted Cruz: Nazi Salutes at School Board Meetings Aren’t Normal.”
“If you’re defending Nazi salutes at school board meetings, you’re already losing,” Avlon said. “Of course, the issue here isn’t the First Amendment. The issue is the galloping insanity that’s infecting our civic life.”
Cruz defended himself on Twitter writing “I was defending the right of citizens to denounce authoritarian policies. In other words, to OPPOSE Nazis (or petty tyrants), not to support them.”