Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is firing back against what he calls false reports that he backed out of an upcoming CNN debate against Democratic opponent Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas).
“That’s been misreported,” Cruz told IJR when asked why he decided to pull out of the CNN event set to take place later in October. “It’s clear his campaign is reluctant, and has been consistently reluctant, to engage in debates, and this CNN issue has been widely misreported because most of the reports don’t acknowledge that he refused to do an actual debate.”
Cruz argued that the O’Rourke campaign turned down a one-on-one debate between the two Senate candidates. According to the Texas senator, that led CNN to suggest separate town halls “where we’re not in the same room together, not interacting with each other, and that’s what we turned down.”
“I don’t have any particular desire to do an hour interview with CNN,” Cruz added. “I’d rather be campaigning in Texas.”
When IJR asked why he thinks O’Rourke preferred a town hall-style setting instead of a debate, Cruz said he thinks his opponent is betting on the cable news network handling him with kids gloves.
“I think he expects it will be a love fest for him, which is why he wants to do it. But its value to us went down dramatically when he wasn’t willing to be there along with me,” he said.
Cruz also said that he is still 100 percent on board if O’Rourke comes around and is willing to hold a face-to-face debate on CNN instead of separate town hall interviews.
“We did accept it, we explicitly accepted it, and Beto’s campaign turned it down,” Cruz said.
IJR reached out to the O’Rourke campaign for comment but had not heard back at the time of publication.
According to a new Quinnipiac University poll released this week, the incumbent is sitting pretty with a near-double-digit lead over O’Rourke. But based on other polls and experts, the Senate race may be a lot closer than Republicans would like to think. Last month, the Cook Political Report moved the race from leaning Republican to a toss-up for the first time.
And now, with less than four weeks to go until Election Day, O’Rourke is set to have an hour of prime-time CNN coverage to himself — airtime, however, that Cruz said doesn’t concern him one bit.