Ted Cruz Defends Controversial RNC Speech, Refuses to Endorse Trump

"I am not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father," says Texas senator

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Ted Cruz Defends Controversial RNC Speech, Refuses to Endorse Trump
Ted Cruz defended his RNC speech and refusal to endorse Trump, saying, "I am not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and father."

Ted Cruz defended his speech at the Republican National Convention and again refused to endorse Donald Trump because of attacks the nominee made on the senator's family during the primary, The Washington Post reports.

While the Texas senator began his RNC speech Wednesday night congratulating Trump on winning the nomination, it ended with boos from the crowd. During the address, Cruz urged Republicans to "vote your conscience" in November, a direct reference to Trump detractors that lobbied members of the RNC rules committee on a "conscience clause" that would have allowed delegates to vote for someone other than the winner of their state's primary results. Many in attendance saw his refusal to endorse Trump as backtracking on a pledge he and the other former primary candidates took last year to support whoever became the nominee.

But speaking Thursday morning to the Texas delegation, Cruz said of the pledge: "The day that was abrogated was the day this became personal. I'm not going to get into criticizing or attacking Donald Trump, but I'll just give you this response: I am not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father." During their contentious primary battle, Trump re-tweeted a picture negatively comparing Heidi Cruz to his wife Melania, and accused Cruz's father of associating with Lee Harvey Oswald before the John F. Kennedy assassination. 

While Cruz remained steadfast in his decision not to endorse Trump, he emphasized that he did not attack the nominee either. "In that speech last night I did not say a single negative word about Donald Trump," Cruz said. "And I'll tell you this morning, and going forward, I don’t intend to say negative things about Donald Trump." He added: "I'm going to be listening to how he and the campaign conduct themselves every day from now until November."

Both the Trump campaign and GOP establishment figures have rebuked Cruz for his speech. Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort said he thought Cruz "made a mistake" and "used very bad judgment." On CNN, Chris Christie called the speech "awful" and "selfish," while the network also reported that immediately after the speech, Cruz was denied entrance to the suite of Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson.

As for Trump, the nominee's response to Cruz's snub was characteristically flippant. Trump not only upstaged Cruz by entering the convention floor at the end of the speech and flashing a thumbs up to the jeering crowd, but tweeted not long after: "Wow, Ted Cruz got booed off the stage, didn’t honor the pledge! I saw his speech two hours early but let him speak anyway. No big deal!"