After suffering a shellacking in Tuesday’s New York Republican presidential primary, Texas senator Ted Cruz is trying to breathe new life into his long shot campaign by launching transphobic attacks against front-running rival Donald Trump.
The billionaire businessman broke with party orthodoxy when he appeared on NBC’s Today on Thursday and said that transgender people should “use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate.” Trump does not understand the widespread conservative fear and furor over transgender bathroom rights, correctly noting that “there has been so little trouble” caused by people using facilities that match their gender identity.
Trump subsequently tried to walk back his trans-friendly comments later in the day, but not before Cruz blasted his stance on the conservative talk show circuit, on social media and in a blisteringly bigoted campaign ad. In an interview with right-wing radio host Glenn Beck, Cruz compared granting transgender people their civil rights to accommodating “repulsive perverts and criminals.”
“We have gone off the deep end. This is absurd,” Cruz told Beck, adding that his 5-year-old daughter “knows the difference between boys and girls.”
“The idea that grown men would be allowed alone in a bathroom with little girls — you don’t need to be a behavior psychologist to realize that bad things can happen, and any prudent person wouldn’t allow that,” said Cruz.
“I was solicitor general of Texas for five and a half years. I handled case after case after case of child molesters, of pedophiles, of people who abused little kids,” Cruz continued. “When you deal with people who are repulsive perverts and criminals — there are some bad people in the world and we shouldn’t be facilitating putting little girls alone in a bathroom with grown, adult men. That is just a bad, bad, bad idea.”
“ESPN fired Curt Schilling for making the rather obvious point that we shouldn’t allow grown male adult strangers alone in a bathroom with little girls,” he said.
Cruz also tweeted: “Common sense — Grown men shouldn’t be in bathrooms with little girls.”
To hammer home his point, Cruz also released a campaign on Thursday calling Trump’s relative tolerance politically correct “nonsense” and appealing to the fear and bigotry of his largely transphobic base.
“Should a grown man pretending to be a woman be allowed to use the women’s restroom?” the ad asks as menacing music plays along with a clip from Trump’s Today interview. “The same restroom used by your daughter? Your wife? Donald Trump thinks so.”
“It’s not appropriate. It’s not safe,” the ad continues. “It’s PC nonsense that’s destroying America. Donald Trump won’t take on the PC police. He’s one of them.”
Also on Thursday, a transgender teen and his mother who had reserved tickets for a Ted Cruz campaign rally in Frederick, Maryland were ejected from the event without explanation. James Van Kuilenburg, 16, told the Washington Blade that security staff grabbed him and prevented him from telling journalists covering the rally about the incident. Van Kuilenburg also said Cruz campaign volunteers laughed at him outside the event venue and that “the level of disrespect and aggression there was outstanding.”
Despite there being no statistical evidence of transgender bathroom crime, numerous states have passed or are considering laws restricting trans people’s restroom use. After Charlotte, North Carolina approved a sweeping anti-discrimination law that included the right of transgender individuals to use bathrooms that match their gender identity, state lawmakers rushed through legislation, signed by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, striking down and outlawing laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination. HB 2 has sparked widespread backlash, with businesses, celebrities and even sports leagues boycotting or threatening to boycott the state.
While there is scant evidence of transgender bathroom transgressions, fully 70 percent of trans people have reported being denied entry, harassed or assaulted when trying to use a restroom, according to a 2013 study from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law. This has led many states, counties and local municipalities to enact non-discrimination ordinances that specifically protect the right of transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice.