In Which Ted Cruz Dropkicks My Hometown Newspaper for Lecturing Him on Free Speech Rights and Public Safety

Senator Ted Cruz speaks at the George H.W. Bush Commemorative Center in Midland, Texas for a campaign stop Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018. Cruz is on his bus tour campaigning before the mid-term elections. (Mark Rogers/Odessa American via AP)

Senator Ted Cruz speaks at the George H.W. Bush Commemorative Center in Midland, Texas for a campaign stop Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018. (Mark Rogers/Odessa American via AP)

Over the weekend, pro-life counselor/activist David Benham was arrested along with several others outside of a Charlotte abortion clinic for allegedly violating North Carolina’s stay at home order, which went into effect March 30th at 5pm.

When Fox News asked for an explanation, here’s what they were given:

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department pointed to the county attorney, Tyrone Wade, for interpretation of the order. In a statement to Fox News, Wade said “it is reasonable to limit a person’s freedom or movement to a gathering of no more than 10 people and a requirement that each person remains at least six feet apart to protect the public,” given the state of emergency and public health emergency declarations.

“On Saturday, officers observed approximately 50 protesters congregating outside of the clinic,” Wade said. “The gathering was determined to be a violation of mass gatherings in the North Carolina Stay at Home Order.”

According to the order, a “mass gathering” is defined as an event with more than 10 people in an indoor or outdoor space.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who describes Benham as a friend, lashed out at the CMPD and NC Governor Roy Cooper (D), saying the arrest was a violation of Benham’s constitutional right to peacefully provide counsel:

My hometown paper the Charlotte Observer (which some of us around here have affectionately called the “Charlotte Disturber” for years), penned a predictably snide editorial in response to Cruz’s defense of Benham, calling the Senator “dangerously and shamelessly wrong” about Benham’s right to counsel:

Charlotte abortion protesters David and Jason Benham got a surprise surge of publicity this weekend, thanks to a U.S. Senator who selfishly decided that a moment of political opportunity was more important than a message of public health.

[…]

Constitutional freedoms, including speech, are not absolute. They’re weighted against public health and safety considerations, and courts have long had no problem with restrictions like those in North Carolina and other states so long as they are applied and enforced evenly and are justified by the public interest. Last month, a New Hampshire court ruled that a coronavirus-related ban on gatherings was a permissible restriction on free assembly.

Cruz, who graduated from Harvard Law School, should know this. It’s pretty likely he does know this. His support of the abortion protesters was a political pantomime, not a serious legal opinion. It was a cheap play for fist pumps, but it comes with a cost. By declaring that people can violate public health restrictions if they feel strongly about something, Cruz dilutes those orders in Charlotte and everywhere else.

Cruz, I’m happy to report, fired back at the paper, noting that they were doing something liberally biased news outlets like the Charlotte Observer have become infamous for over the years: Dishonesty in their reporting. He noted that if the clinic was deemed an “essential” operation then Benham’s right to provide counseling should be considered essential, too, as long as he and his group maintained good social distancing practices:

I’ve lived in Charlotte almost all my life, and I’ve been analyzing the Charlotte Observer’s reporting and editorials for decades now. When it comes to understanding the First Amendment, I will trust Cruz over the liberals on the Observer’s editorial board every single time.