U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, the Republican seeking a second term against Democratic U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, portrayed O'Rourke as wildly out of step with Texas in part, Cruz said, by standing against police officers who protect communities with their lives.
In their first debate, Cruz said that O'Rourke had voted against body armor for sheriffs. We've already found that to be False. There was no such vote.
Cruz also said O'Rourke had said he’d be open to abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement. We've found that claim Mostly True, although O’Rourke also has said he wouldn’t eliminate the agency without another department absorbing its duties.
Cruz said next: "And just this week, Congressman O’Rourke described law enforcement, described police officers, as modern-day Jim Crow."
O’Rourke replied in the debate: "What Sen. Cruz said is simply untrue. I did not call police officers modern-day Jim Crow."
So, did he?
We traced O'Rourke's comments to a Sept. 19 event at Prairie View A&M University, which we reviewed via Facebook Live video.
In reply to a question about how he’d address the needs of former slaves, O’Rourke referred to the discovery this year of dozens of unmarked graves in Texas’ Fort Bend County indicating, he said, that well after the Civil War, law officers would arrest African American residents for idling and petty crimes to fill out work crews for contractors, a notorious convict-leasing system.
O’Rourke said such individuals were "people who became convicts solely by dint of the color of their skin," he said, under a system that was "radically unjust."
O’Rourke went on: "That injustice, to many more people here that I know firsthand, continues to persist today. That system of suspending somebody, solely based on the color of their skin; searching that person solely based on the color of their skin; stopping that person solely based on the color of their skin; shooting that person solely based on the color of their skin; throwing the book at that person and letting them rot behind bars solely based on the color of their skin, is why some have called this, I think it is an apt description, the new Jim Crow."
He said next: "We have written people off and written people out of the economic life of this country, their ability to participate in the future of the United States of America. We have literally drawn people out of their state House, their congressional, their state Senate districts solely based on the color of their skin."
Chris Evans of O’Rourke’s campaign answered our inquiry with an email disputing Cruz’s conclusion that O’Rourke called law enforcement or police officers the new Jim Crow.
Evans stressed that O’Rourke was speaking, as he said, to the "system." Evans wrote: "As Beto has done at many forums in the past, he outlined how institutionalized inequity — in education, in economics, in health care, in the justice system, in housing, in transportation — has been referred to as the New Jim Crow."
Cruz said O’Rourke described police as "modern-day Jim Crow."
This claim has an element of truth in that O’Rourke’s embrace of the "new Jim Crow" description followed his excoriation of police stops, searches and shootings he attributed to the color of a person’s skin. But O'Rourke also said such actions rank among ways the country systematically discriminates against black residents —extending, he said, to sentencing, economic opportuniy and to how lawmakers carve districts. He didn't flatly equate police with Jim Crow.
We rate this claim Mostly False.