WASHINGTON -- Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Wednesday blamed President Barack Obama for the racial tensions and unrest unrolling across the U.S., including the current turmoil in Baltimore, Maryland.
"President Obama, when he was elected, he could have been a unifying leader," Cruz lamented in a question and answer session hosted by the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Instead, the presidential candidate argued, Obama "has made decisions that I think have inflamed racial tensions, that have divided us rather than bringing us together."
As evidence of Obama's poor record on the matter, Cruz pointed to Vice President Joe Biden's comments during the 2012 campaign, in which Biden claimed Republicans would put African-Americans "back in chains." Pressed by reporters at the Chamber of Commerce event to name a specific case where the president inflamed racial tensions, Cruz cited the 2009 "beer summit," in which Obama invited black Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. to have a beer at the White House with white police Sgt. James Crowley, who had arrested Gates at his home.
Obama "has not used his role as president to bring us together," Cruz said. "He has exacerbated racial misunderstandings."
The conservative firebrand also accused Obama of "building a straw man of the opposition to vilify and caricature" the Republican Party.
Cruz said that the death of Freddie Gray, an unarmed black man who died from a spinal injury while in the custody of Baltimore police, needed to be properly investigated. But he argued that portraying law enforcement officers in a negative light did a disservice to minorities.
"The vilification of law enforcement has been fundamentally wrong and it has hurt the minority community," Cruz said.
Correction: The White House "beer summit" took place in 2009, not 2011.