Texas Senator Ted Cruz faced fierce criticism Thursday after he flew to a Mexican holiday resort while millions of people in his state have struggled without power or water due to a winter storm.
As political rivals called for his resignation, Cruz justified the flight by saying that his one-night stay in Cancun was to drop his children off before he flew home.
Social media photographs showed Cruz taking the flight on Wednesday as the southern United States, which rarely sees severe winter conditions, was hit with extreme cold temperatures.
Across Texas, utility companies struggled to restore power, seven million people in the state were told to boil water before consuming it, and authorities opened 300 emergency “warming centers.”
Rolling blackouts were imposed as power stations and wind turbines froze up.
“With schools cancelled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends. Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon,” Cruz said in a statement.
“My staff and I are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas. We want our power back, our water on and our homes warm.”
In televised comments to reporters he added: “It was obviously a mistake. In hindsight, I wouldn’t have done it.”
Cruz was filmed at Cancun airport on Thursday before his return flight.
In a radio interview earlier this week, he urged people to “just stay home” as the winter weather hit.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki offered a dry assessment of the incident when questioned by journalists.
“I don’t have any update on the exact location of Ted Cruz,” she said. “Our focus is on working… on addressing the winter storm and the crisis at hand.”
The Texas Democratic Party called for Cruz’s resignation over his trip.
Cruz, an ally of former president Donald Trump, is considered a likely 2024 Republican presidential candidate.