Ted Cruz Booed Off Stage at Middle-East Christians' Group
It's not every day that you see a presidential contender getting booed off stage.
But that's what happened Wednesday night when Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, widely viewed as a likely Republican candidate for the White House in 2016, addressed a group called In Defense of Christians at a gala dinner for its inaugural summit at the Omni Shoreham hotel in Washington, D.C.
The video suggested, and Cruz's office concurred, that the senator was booed and jeered for speaking favorably about Israel.
The above video lacks some context, but a longer video posted by the Christian Broadcasting Network showed that the booing began when Cruz said, "Today, Christians have no greater friend than the Jewish state."
Cruz won applause when he admonished the crowd, saying, "Those who hate Israel hate America, and those who hate Jews hate Christians, and if this room will not recognize that, then my heart weeps that the men and women here will not stand in solidarity with Jews and Christians alike who are persecuted by radicals who seek to murder them."
Audience members booed again when Cruz continued, "If you hate the Jewish people, you are not reflecting the teachings of Christ, and the very same people who persecute and murder Christians right now, who crucify Christians , who behead children, are the very same people who target and murder Jews for their faith for the same reason."
An apparent organizer took the stage to urge "respect for dialogue. Respect, please. We are in America." Audience members shouted at Cruz, who said he was "saddened."
"If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you," Cruz said, and walked off the stage to some applause and a good number of jeers.
The group said it advocates for Christian communities in the Middle East. Its advisory board includes former Attorney General John Ashcroft, former transportation secretary Ray Lahood, and Arab American Institute president James Zogby, according to its website. Its executive director, Andrew Doran, is a former State Department executive secretariat of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO.
"Tonight in Washington should have been a night of unity as we came together for the inaugural event for a group that calls itself 'In Defense of Christians.' Instead, it unfortunately deteriorated into a shameful display of bigotry and hatred," Cruz said in a written statement on the event.
Many in the audience applauded him, Cruz said in the statement, but a "vocal minority" shouted him down. As Cruz was making that point to the crowd Wednesday night, one man shouted that it was "most of us" who disagreed with him. In his statement, Cruz said he spoke to the group in the hopes of talking about persecution of Christians at the hands of ISIS, against which he has railed before.
"But bigotry and hatred have no place in this discussion. Anti-Semitism is a corrosive evil, and it reared its ugly head tonight," Cruz said. "After just a few minutes, I had no choice. I told them that if you will not stand with Israel, if you will not stand with the Jews, then I will not stand with you. And then I walked off the stage."
In Defense of Christians did not immediately respond to an inquiry from ABC News about Cruz's appearance.
This post has been updated.