Ted Cruz Campaign Battles 'Intolerant' Boycott of Gay Men Who Hosted Him in New York

A culture war blows up, and Cruz intends to win it.

Senator Ted Cruz waves with his wife, Heidi, and his daughters as he marks the start of his presidential campaign at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., on March 23, 2015.

Photographer: Jay Paul/Bloomberg

Texas Senator Ted Cruz has picked many fights in his short political career, and faced down a multitude of enemies. Yet he has never faced an opponent quite like Broadway Bares Solo Strips.

The producers of the New York City show became the first people to boycott a venue owned by Mati Weiderpass and Ian Reisner, gay entrepreneurs who hosted Cruz for an event this week. As first reported by Maggie Haberman in the New York Times, Cruz held a "fireside chat" with about a dozen interested people at the penthouse owned by Weiderpass and Reisner. The ostensible topic was Israel; Cruz, like many Republicans, is looking for openings with donors who have leaned Democrat may be shopping around for a new party out of a feeling that the Obama administration has slighted the Jewish State. Yet Cruz told attendees that gay marriage was an issue for the states -- though if one of his daughters were gay, he would love them just as much.

That kindled a Facebook campaign to boycott Fire Island Pines Establishments and the gay-friendly Out NYC Hotel. In a statement to Bloomberg News, the campaign's anonymous organizer said that to suddenly think that the new owners of a portion of the Fire Island Pines commercial space support anti-LGBT politicians is a devastating blow to the community," and said the campaign had already gone viral.

"Hundreds of people are contacting us to organize and help," said the organizer via email. "We will be meeting with a number of local gay rights organizations in the next few days to see how we want to collectively approach this unfortunate situation.  We are a very powerful community -- as evidenced by what just occurred in Indiana and last year in Arizona.  The thought of one dollar spent at their bars and hotels making its way into the campaign coffers of anti-LGBT elected officials is outrageous. If we have to shut the place down to prevent that from happening, we will."

In statements to Haberman, Reisner and Weiderpass said that they disagreed with Cruz on gay marriage, and that his appearance "was a step in the right direction toward him having a better understanding" of what they believed. 

That did not convince the people beyond the Broadway Bares show. "It is a rare instance where the actions of a donor negatively impacts us as an organization and potentially jeopardizes our relationship with others whose support is integral to our success," they wrote on their web site. "But when it does occur, in a way that’s blatantly against all we stand and work for, we can’t pretend it doesn’t come with consequences. Silence is not a neutral position. It is complicit. This is not about partisan politics or punishment. This is about doing what’s right to ultimately ensure that our commitment to the men, women and children we serve cannot be questioned."

The cancellation came after hours of bad press for Cruz. After conservative reporter Byron York probed the story, and the question of whether Cruz was telling gay voters something he would not tell social conservatives, the Cruz campaign issued a statement firing back.

"A conservative Republican who is willing to meet with individuals who do not agree on marriage and who loves his daughters unconditionally may not reflect the caricature of conservatives promoted by the left, but it's hardly newsworthy," Cruz said. "I know it's been a long time since we've seen it, but this is what it means to truly be a 'big tent Republican' instead of a panderer."

The irony is that the gay backlash to Cruz's hosts might engender sympathy with gay marriage opponents. Cruz spent Friday afternoon talking off the record to pastors in Nevada; he would spend Saturday evening at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition's "spring kick-off." He was already entering those rooms as the sponsor of legislation that would allow states to ban gay marriage, no matter what the Supreme Court decided this year. Now, he'd be the latest veteran of a culture war waged by gay rights activists. First they came for Brendan Eich, the former CEO of Mozilla. Then they came for the Memories Pizza restauranteurs in Indiana. And then they came for Weiderpass and Reisner and Cruz.

"The swarm of locusts we've dubbed 'the Rainbow Jihad' on my show is so out of control, it now threatens it's own benefactors," said Steve Deace, a conservative Des Moines radio host. "If these cultural Marxists won't even tolerate leaders in their own community like Reisner having a peaceful dialogue with the other side, then it's not a movement but an inquisition."

That was the tone Cruz's campaign took when asked about the boycott this afternoon.

"I'm not sure where their intolerance leads," said Cruz campaign spokesman Rick Tyler. "Are they going to boycott TV networks and their advertisers that interview Ted Cruz? Book stores that sell his books? How about the hotels that host his events. Where does it end?"

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