Ted Cruz back in Texas after flying to Cancun during snow crisis

Photos of Republican senator went viral on social media overnight, prompting widespread outrage

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz took an immediate flight back to Texas on Thursday after photos emerged of him traveling with family to Cancun, Mexico, in the middle of a disastrous blizzard that kept several million residents in his state without water, electricity and heat in below-freezing temperatures.

Reuters spotted Cruz on Thursday afternoon at the Cancun airport on his way to board a return flight to Texas.

Several hours later, Cruz was shown arriving back home with a police escort and his luggage in tow.

The now-confirmed photos that caused the initial controversy went viral on social media overnight, prompting widespread outrage during the ongoing winter crisis.

The images of Cruz at the airport with his family and later aboard a flight first came to light Wednesday night but remained unverified as of Thursday morning, according to Newsweek.

Multiple news outlets reached out to Cruz’s office, which did not immediately respond to the furor about the senator’s trip amid a historic polar vortex that’s been blamed for more than 30 deaths nationwide, including at least 10 victims in Texas.

Before boarding the flight back to Texas on Thursday afternoon, Cruz issued a statement defending the trip and explained that he was only in Mexico to escort his daughters on a vacation they wanted to take while classes were canceled.

“With school cancelled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends,” Cruz wrote, suggesting that he didn’t plan on staying in Mexico the entire time. “Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon. 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. My team and I will continue using all our resources to keep Texans informed and safe.”

Cruz also revealed that like millions of Texans, “our family lost heat and power too,” he said.

The trip to Cancun was part of a previously planned family vacation, according to The New York Times, but Cruz’s two Twitter accounts made no recent mention of the senator’s plans to be out of the country.

»RELATED: Texas mayor tells freezing residents city ‘owes you nothing’ amid outage

By late Thursday morning, the claim that Cruz took the flight was finally corroborated by at least one GOP source, according to Fox News reporter Chad Pergram, who tweeted that Paul Steinhauser, a colleague of Cruz, confirmed that the senator “traveled to Cancun amid the TX storm/power outages.”

“The photos speak for themselves,” Steinhauser reportedly told Pergram.

Power outages dropped below 1 million by Thursday morning for the first time in four days, but many people remained without electricity or safe drinking water after the winter storm wreaked havoc on the state’s power grid and utilities. About 3 million homes were still without power on the day of Cruz’s flight, according to The Associated Press.

Newsweek reported that Cruz, 50, was believed to have taken a United Airlines flight from George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston to Cancun. Social media sleuths also widely surmised that Cruz was in the United Airlines terminal.

“Just confirmed @SenTedCruz and his family flew to Cancun tonight for a few days at a resort they’ve visited before,” tweeted former MSNBC anchor David Shuster, who shared a photo of Cruz on a flight.

“Cruz seems to believe there isn’t much for him to do in Texas for the millions of fellow Texans who remain without electricity/water and are literally freezing.”

Keith Edwards, a former adviser for Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff’s campaign, also claimed he had confirmation of the rumor, according to Newsweek.

“I now have multiple people DMing me, confirming he was on their flight to Cancun today,” Edwards tweeted late Wednesday.

As the controversy swirled over the matter, “Cancun” became the top trending topic on Twitter in the United States.

In December, Cruz attacked Austin Mayor Stephen Adler, a Democrat, for taking a trip to Cabo while telling constituents to “stay home” during the pandemic, according to the Times.

“Hypocrites,” Cruz wrote on Twitter. “Complete and utter hypocrites.”