Ted Cruz: COVID rules at universities are a 'war on conservatives'

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The Texas senator let loose on Twitter after the University of Wisconsin-Madison dared to ask him to wear a mask indoors.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) accused the University of Wisconsin-Madison of trying to censor him on Tuesday after the campus refused to exempt his podcast from COVID-19 safety requirements.

Cruz had been scheduled to record his podcast, "Verdict with Ted Cruz," at the university's Shannon Hall theater on Wednesday evening. The event was supposed to be hosted by the UW-Madison chapter of the right-wing Young America's Foundation.

UW-Madison requires face coverings to be worn inside campus buildings to curb the spread of COVID-19. After university leadership declined to give them a special exemption, Cruz and the group decided to move the event to the Wisconsin Masonic Center, a local events space.

"Academia's war on conservatives continues!!" Cruz tweeted. "UW-Madison is trying to stifle free speech and prevent @michaeljknowles and me from recording a LIVE episode of #Verdict. Their Marxist COVID mandates won't stop us! Get tickets for our new venue!"

Other podcasters have successfully recorded with masks on throughout the pandemic.

In July 2020, the city of Madison and surrounding Dane County instituted an emergency order requiring face masks for indoor gatherings. The area's public health agency recently extended its mask mandate to Nov. 5.

The Wisconsin Masonic Center is located in Madison, which means it must comply with the citywide mask mandate. The center requires guests to wear masks indoors, a spokesperson confirmed to the American Independent Foundation in an email.

A Cruz spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

In February, Cruz mocked mask requirements at a conservative conference.

"Not just one mask — two, three, four," Cruz said. "You can't have too many masks. How much virtue do you want to signal? This is just dumb."

In March, a reporter asked Cruz to put on a mask before speaking in close proximity to journalists. He refused.

"You're welcome to step away if you like," Cruz told the reporter.

In April, Cruz announced he would no longer wear a face mask in public and falsely claimed he was following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More recently, Cruz has pushed to end mask requirements for people on airplanes and public transportation, despite evidence that people can still contract and spread the virus to other people even after they've had it themselves.

"It's long past time for President Biden and the CDC to follow the science and end this mask mandate for fully vaccinated individuals," Cruz said in June. "Americans should be able to travel to celebrate Independence Day with their friends and loved ones without having to follow an outdated and unnecessary mandate."

In August, Cruz filed a bill to ban mask mandates on federal property and for public transportation — even for unvaccinated people.

"To protect the rights and privacy of Americans, I've introduced legislation that would prohibit federal COVID mandates," he said. "This means no mask mandates, no vaccine mandates, and no vaccine passports."

Scientists say masks are highly effective at reducing the spread of COVID-19. As of this week, 65.1% of Wisconsin residents over the age of 18 are fully vaccinated, compared to 67.9% of U.S. adults.

To date, Wisconsin has seen more than 750,000 coronavirus cases and 8,000 deaths.

Madison and Dane County have "consistently maintained lower infection rates and lower hospitalization rates" compared to the rest of Wisconsin and the country, according to the head of the area's public health agency.

"We have done this by following the science and implementing layered prevention, including masking up indoors and getting vaccinated," Dr. Jerry Halverson, the chair of Public Health Madison & Dane County, said in an Oct. 4 statement.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.