Tapper to Cruz: Are You ‘Endorsing Conservative Intolerance’ by Attending Event with Activist Pastor

Wrapping up his interview with 2016 Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz on Thursday’s edition of The Lead on CNN, host Jake Tapper asked Cruz about the upcoming National Religious Liberties Conference he’s attending in Iowa this weekend and if Cruz is “endorsing conservative intolerance” since it's organized by an activist pastor named Kevin Swanson.

Tapper arrived at his concluding question by providing background on Swanson and what he described as a history of “very inflammatory things about gays and lesbians” that included calls for Christians to “hold up signs at gay weddings holding up the Leviticus verse, instructing the faithful to put gays to death because what they do is an abomination.”

Even though the CNN host told Cruz that he doesn’t hold him “responsible for what other people say,” Tapper still wondered aloud to the Texas Senator: “[B]ut given your concern about liberal intolerance, are you not, in some ways, endorsing conservative intolerance?”

In response, Cruz emphasized that he’s unaware of “what this gentleman has said or hasn't said” before pivoting to where he personally stands on religious liberty:

I know that when it comes to religious liberty, this is a passion of mine and has been for decades and that I have been fighting for religious liberty for everyone. Fighting for religious liberty for Christians, for Jews, for Muslims, for every one of us to practice our faith. And in the last six and a half years under the Obama administration, we have seen an assault on religious liberty from the federal government.

Readers should be reminded that, back on October 16, Tapper started his much-anticipated interview with Hillary Clinton by asking her about what her husband and former President Bill Clinton told her right after the first Democratic presidential debate and what has she learned about him after 40 years of marriage together. 

While Tapper asked good questions later about Benghazi and Sidney Blumenthal, the substantive portions had already been torpedoed and destined to be overlooked with the softball on the wedding anniversary serving as the main soundbite of the interview employed by much of the mainstream media for that day going forward.

The relevant portion of the transcript from CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper on November 5 can be found below.

CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper
November 5, 2015
4:53 p.m. Eastern

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: #CruzOnCNN; Cruz to Attend Natl. Religious Liberties Conference]

JAKE TAPPER:  Quickly if you could, you are speaking at a conference this weekend, the National Religious Liberties Conference in Des Moines. It's organized by a guy named Kevin Swanson. You've been very outspoken about what you deem liberal intolerance of Christians, but Kevin Swanson has said some very inflammatory things about gays and lesbians. He believes Christians should hold up signs at gay weddings holding up the Leviticus verse, instructing the faithful to put gays to death because what they do is an abomination. I don't hold you responsible for what other people say, but given your concern about liberal intolerance, are you not, in some ways, endorsing conservative intolerance? 

REPUBLICAN SENATOR TED CRUZ (Tex.): Listen, I don't know what this gentleman has said or hasn't said. I know that when it comes to religious liberty, this is a passion of mine and has been for decades and that I have been fighting for religious liberty for everyone. Fighting for religious liberty for Christians, for Jews, for Muslims, for every one of us to practice our faith. And in the last six and a half years under the Obama administration, we have seen an assault on religious liberty from the federal government. You know, couple months ago I hosted a rally for religious liberty in Iowa had 2,500 people come out. The single biggest political event in the state of Iowa this year and we had nine heroes, people who stood up for their faith who just told their stories and it was powerful. You can go and watch those stories on our website, tedcruz.org and you know, the amazing thing is many in the media diminish threats on religious liberty say they're not real. What I tried to do in that event is withdraw myself and have the focus be on them telling their stories.

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