Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX, backtracked Thursday on calling Jan. 6, 2021, a "violent terrorist attack" in an interview with Tucker Carlson

He told Carlson, "It was a mistake to say that yesterday." 

During a Wednesday Senate Rules Committee hearing, Cruz said, "We are approaching a solemn anniversary this week … And it is an anniversary of a violent terrorist attack on the Capitol, where we saw the men and women of law enforcement demonstrate incredible courage, incredible bravery — risk their lives for the Capitol."

"There are a lot of dumb people in Congress. You're not one of them," Carlson said. "I think you're smarter than I am, and you never use words carelessly. And yet you called this a terror attack when by no definition was it a terror attack. That's a lie. You told that lie on purpose, and I'm wondering why you did."

On "Tucker Carlson Tonight," Cruz described his remarks as "sloppy" and "frankly dumb," but Carlson said he doesn't "buy that."

Capitol building. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Carlson said Cruz was no dummy and was masterfully careful with his words, so he didn't buy the Republican senator's justification of sloppiness. 

"I've known you a long time since before you went to the Senate. You were a Supreme Court contender," Carlson continued. "You take words as seriously as any man who's ever served in the Senate … I do not believe that you used that accidentally. I just don't."

Cruz reiterated his point that his phrasing was not intentional, but negligent. 

"As a result of my sloppy phrasing, it's caused a lot of people to misunderstand what I meant. Let me tell you what I meant to say. I was referring to … the limited number of people who engaged in violent attacks against police officers … I've drawn a distinction. I wasn't saying that the thousands of peaceful protesters supporting Donald Trump are somehow terrorists. I wasn't saying the millions of patriots across the country supporting President Trump are terrorists, and that's what a lot of people have misunderstood."

Ted Cruz on Capitol Hill in Washington

Sen. Ted Cruz. (Greg Nash/Pool via AP)

Carlson said Cruz was not making sense and that there is a legal and moral difference between someone who attacks a police officer and a terrorist. 

Carlson said, "So if somebody assaults a cop, he should be charged and go to jail. I couldn't agree more. We've said that for years, but that person's still not a terrorist … You're playing into the other side's characterization that … allows them to define an entire population as foreign combatants. And you know that. So why did you do it?"

Stop the Steal protesters in Washington rally in support of Donald Trump on Capitol Hill

Trump supporters clash with police and security forces on Jan. 6, 2021. (Brent Stirton/Getty Images)

Cruz added that he always believed that people who attack police are similar to terrorists: "I've done so over and over and over again."


Cruz said his statement Wednesday was "a mistake."

Carlson said, "I guess I just don't believe you ... because I have such respect for your acuity and your precision, and I've seen it on display. I've covered you as a reporter. I know how you speak, and you have sat there for a year and watched people use language to distort the events of that day."

In the segment's close, Cruz said, "I've used that word for people that violently assault cops. I used that word all in 2020 for the antifa and BLM terrorists that assaulted cops and firebombed police cars, but I agree it was a mistake to use the word yesterday, because the Democrats and the corporate media have so politicized it. They're trying to paint everyone as a terrorist, and it's a lie … They want to paint us as Nazis … I'm the one leading the fight in the Senate against this garbage."