"I'm amazed that when the junior senator from Texas had the audacity to say earlier this week, and I quote, the overwhelming majority of violent criminals are Democrats," Reid said during a speech on the Senate floor. "And the article that he quoted has been said to be quoted improperly."
Reid added that the remarks were particularly surprising coming from Cruz, who attended Princeton University and Harvard Law School.
"That's really quite stunning that someone who with the academic background of the junior senator from Texas can't read a simple report," Reid said. "The overwhelming majority of violent criminals are Democrats. Think about that. Fanning the flames of intolerance is un-American. We're better than this."
Cruz made the comments during an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Monday following last week's deadly shooting at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado.
"The overwhelming majority of violent criminals are Democrats," Cruz said. "The media doesn’t report that. What they report, and there’s a reason why the Democrats for years have been viewed as soft on crime, because they go in and they appoint to the bench judges who release violent criminals."
As FactCheck.org pointed out Tuesday, Cruz's assertion distorts research that found a majority of ex-offenders in three states had registered as Democrats:
The claim is based on research that found a majority of ex-felons in three states registered as Democrats. But that was a study of all ex-felons, not just violent criminals, as Cruz framed it. Also, a follow-up study of three additional states by the same authors found the majority of ex-felons in those states were neither Republican nor Democrat.
Another study estimated ex-felons are more likely to vote Democratic than Republican, but the authors caution that that doesn’t mean criminality is associated with partisanship. Rather, it is a reflection that those in the criminal justice system are more likely to be black, Latino or poor whites.
The Washington Post also found little evidence to back up Cruz's claims.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) also criticized his colleague's remarks, telling reporters Tuesday he'd give the claim "five Pinocchios."
"What? Did he say that?" Durbin said when asked about Cruz's comments. "No, that was [Donald] Trump. It was Cruz? These guys are competing with one another, aren't they?"
Jennifer Bendery and Elise Foley contributed reporting.
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