Last November, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz and his father, Rafael, both appeared at a right-wing Christian conference in Iowa hosted by extremist radio host Kevin Swanson, who was already notorious for openly supporting imposing the death penalty for homosexuality.
Prior to the event, Cruz was asked why he was appearing at a conference organized by someone with such extremist views, but Cruz merely dodged the question. At the conference itself, Swanson repeatedly defended his view that homosexuality should carry the death penalty, but when Rachael Maddow asked the Cruz campaign following the conference if it would denounce Swanson, all that spokesman Rick Tyler would say is that Swanson's calls to put gays to death were "not explicit" enough to warrant any sort of comment from the Republican presidential hopeful or his campaign.
But, as Maddow pointed out on Friday night, while the Cruz campaign would not bother to dignify her inquiries with a response, it did quietly distance itself from Swanson and his event in mid-December, telling USA Today that "it was a mistake" for Cruz to have attended the conference:
A tipping point, [Americans United for Separation of Church and State’s Barry] Lynn said, came at last month’s National Religious Liberties Conference in Iowa, where Cruz said, “any president who doesn’t begin every day on his knees isn’t fit to be a commander-in-chief of this country.” Cruz was also introduced onstage by Pastor Kevin Swanson, who, earlier in the conference, quoted a passage of the Bible that he claimed justified the execution of homosexuals.
“This is over-the-top rhetoric, even for a conservative presidential candidate,” Lynn said. “There is a lot of religious fervor going on in [Cruz's] campaign.”
Tyler, the Cruz spokesman, called Swanson’s comments “reprehensible” and said Cruz has spoken out repeatedly against anyone who calls for hatred or violence against homosexuals.
“Senator Cruz is passionate about religious liberties” Tyler said in an email. “Many respected organizations were sponsoring [the conference], but, given these offensive comments, it was a mistake for Senator Cruz to appear at the event.”
Here is the Maddow segment: