Wrapping up his 21-hour fake filibuster calling for the defunding of Obamacare, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) jokingly thanked his staff “who have endured this Bataan death march” last week. The lighthearted comparison outraged veterans of the actual 1942 death march, who confronted Cruz in his office on Monday.
The American Coalition for Filipino Veterans issued a letter demanding an apology for Cruz’s “ill-advised, and insulting televised statement.”
During the Bataan Death March, Japanese troops killed more than 10,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war during a five-day 65-mile march to a Japanese prison camp. Beatings and random executions were common, and hundreds died from heat, exhaustion, or starvation along the way. Once the survivors arrived at the camp, about 400 prisoners died every day from starvation or disease.
“There is no logical reason to compare the brutal imprisonment, suffering, tortures and executions faced by the heroic Fil-Am POWs/Death March WWII survivors with the victims of your grandstanding,” the group wrote.
On Monday, Cruz met with 96-year-old ACFV spokesman Mr. Celestino Almeda and 93-year-old Major Jesse Baltazar, a Bataan defender and prisoner of war. The senator apologized, explaining that his intentions were good:
CRUZ: I apologize for causing offense. I should not have said what I did. I’ll share with you the context of the comment I made because I was not attempting to compare my filibuster to that suffering. It was at the end of what had been nearly 22 hours and I was thanking the floor staff. There are a number of staff on the Senate floor who had to be there the whole night and they didn’t have a choice on it. So I actually put together a list of everyone on the floor staff and all of the police officers and all of the pages and everyone who was forced to stay there all night. And it was in the context of thanking them for enduring. And that’s when I used the analogy. I was trying to say that they had endured a long period of suffering not of their choosing. But I understand that that comment caused offense and I apologize, that was not my intention to do so. In fact my intention was to thank them for their service.
Cruz went on to say to the stony-faced veterans that he could relate to their suffering because his father and aunt had been jailed and tortured in Cuba. He then touted his record defending veterans, telling the two men, “On issues on which we are standing together side by side, I don’t think you will find someone who is more tenacious in this body.”
As the veterans’ letter pointed out, “Many of these aging heroes, who are in their late 80s and early 90s, are still waiting for their rightful benefits.” A bill to address wrongful denial of benefits to Filipino veterans is currently languishing in the Senate. The National Federation of Filipino American Association called on Cruz to “support these measures as they would restore honor, dignity and justice for Filipino veterans, and not use their horrifying plight to promote his own agenda.”