In trying to explain why he appeared with a pastor who supports executing gays and lesbians, Ted Cruz now regularly implies the U.S. shouldn't send money to countries that do just that.
Although Cruz has yet to explicitly distance himself from "kill the gays" pastor Kevin Swanson, who the presidential candidate made a joint appearance with this month in Iowa, his spokesman suggests that what Cruz told out actress Ellen Page in August should suffice.
"I'd invite you to look at Cruz's remarks to Ellen Page at the Iowa State Fair," spokesman Rick Tyler told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow in an email on Wednesday, "where Cruz is speaking for himself about what he believes instead of trying to hold him accountable for something he did not say nor believes."
Maddow has pressed the Cruz campaign for an explanation of whether the Texas senator agrees with Swanson's remarks delivered before introducing Cruz to the crowd in Iowa at the "National Religious Liberties Conference," where Swanson extensively defended the need to one day execute all gays and lesbians.
Maddow has also asked whether the Republican candidate for president agrees with the views of radical social conservatives whose endorsements he's touted this month in a round of news releases -- including those who support killing doctors who perform abortions.
In the exchange with Page back in August during the Iowa State Fair, Cruz conceded that, "Murder is murder is murder, and it is wrong, and it's wrong across the board."
In contrast with Swanson, who has defended Ugandan officials who once sought the death penalty for gays and lesbians, Cruz seemed to condemn Iran for hanging gay men as punishment. And he condemned ISIS for executing men accused of being gay by throwing them off of roofs or stoning them to death.
Many LGBT activists have supported ending foreign aid to countries that use the death penalty for gays and lesbians. While specifically criticizing the Iran nuclear deal, Cruz inadvertently invoked their argument.
"It is interesting right now. Do you know where gay people are being persecuted right now?" he asked Page. "ISIS is executing gay people. Iran is executing homosexuals. And on the left you hear complete silence about Iran hanging homosexuals. And yet the Obama administration is sending over $100 billion to a regime that murders homosexuals. That is fundamentally wrong."
For her part, Page obviously agreed with Cruz that it's wrong to execute gays, though she disagreed that liberals aren't upset about it, pointing out that LGBT people are being persecuted all over the world. She welcomed any chance to talk with Obama about ending all foreign aid to countries with harsh penalties for being LGBT.
But Cruz didn't seem to grasp the background on that issue, suddenly cutting off their conversation by saying they'd agreed. So it's curious that Tyler has decided to direct Maddow's attention to the video, and that Cruz is now regularly mentioning it in public appearances before social conservatives.
He brought up the interaction as recently as Friday during the "Presidential Family Forum" hosted by the National Organization for Marriage in Iowa. Once again, he implied it's wrong for the U.S. government to send money to countries that execute gays and lesbians.
"When I asked Ms. Page, you want to talk about protecting discrimination, tell me, why are you not distressed about the fact that Iran and ISIS are murdering homosexuals right now. Why are you not asking President Obama: Why are you sending $100 billion to the Ayatollah Khamenei who murders homosexuals?" said Cruz. "If you want to talk about an assault on gay rights, how about not murdering the homosexuals?"
For Cruz's reference, the list of places where people can be killed for being gay or lesbian isn't limited to Iran. It includes Saudi Arabia, for example.
But it's unclear whether Cruz also believes foreign aid shouldn't be sent to countries that impose life sentences, or if his view only applies to countries that wield the death penalty, or if it only applies to Iran because he objects to the nuclear peace deal negotiated by the Obama administration.
In Gambia, for example, the country's leaders have stuck by a "jail the gays" law the issues life sentences for LGBT people despite the risk of losing millions in foreign aid from Europe.
Activists called for penalties on Kyrgyzstan earlier this year after it passed an anti-LGBT "propaganda" law. The Human Rights Campaign suggested penalties akin to those threatened in Uganda, where the U.S. withheld some foreign aid, after it passed a "kill the gays" law. The law was later undone by a technicality in the courts.
Watch the original interaction between Cruz and Page:
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Watch Maddow's report on the Cruz spokesman's comment: