Republican Texas Senator Ted Cruz told his constituents on Monday: "I was speaking this weekend with the meteorologist expert who was saying the combination of these two storms, we could see up to 100 people lose their lives this week in Texas. So, don't risk it. Keep your family safe and just stay home and hug your kids."
Then on Wednesday evening, Cruz didn't stay home. He went to Cancun, Mexico.
He boarded a United Airlines flight on a day when more than 3 million customers in the Lone Star State were still in the dark, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks outages nationwide. As of Thursday morning, that figure was about 500,000.
One photo on social media showed Cruz wearing a mask and pulling carry-on luggage as he boarded a plane in Houston. People on the flight also took photos of Cruz and put them on social media.
On Thursday, after the trip drew widespread ridicule and outrage on social media, Cruz was on a plane to return to Houston.
He issued a statement explaining that he wasn't on a vacation for himself in Cancun, but chaperoning his daughters, ages 12 and 10, and their friends on the flight.
"Wanting to be a good dad," Cruz said, he decided to fly "with them last night and am flying back this afternoon".
Later Thursday, in an interview with Telemundo at the Cancun airport, Cruz suggested that his daughters asked him and his wife, Heidi, to go on the trip only hours before the family left for the airport.
Cruz said in his statement that his staff and "I am in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas". He also said in his statement that "our family lost heat and power" like millions of Texans, but he told a radio host earlier this week that he hadn't lost power at his Houston home.
In neither his statement nor in his comments to Telemundo did Cruz say if he had originally planned to stay with his daughters longer or address the criticism of him on social media and elsewhere for going to Mexico.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rates the risk of the coronavirus in Mexico at level 4 — the agency's highest level of warning — and says on its website: "Travelers should avoid all travel to Mexico."
State Democratic leaders went after Cruz, with some saying he should resign. Some noted that last November Cruz criticized Austin Mayor Steve Adler, a Democrat, for taking a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, amid the coronavirus pandemic while urging his city's residents to stay home.
The state Republican Party chair declined to deend Cruz on Thursday.
"That's something that he has to answer to his constituents about," Texas GOP Chair Allen West said when asked about Cruz's trip.