Slow but steady, Texas Senator Ted Cruz has managed to climb to second place in the Republican presidential primary race, according to the most recent polls. For the most part, Cruz’s rise can be attributed to his tendency to glob onto controversial comments made by frontrunner Donald Trump. Cruz can lean increasingly far to the right, using Trump’s increasingly-brazen comments as a rubric for knowing how far is too far.
But still, an endorsement or two doesn’t hurt.
"I am excited to be surrounded by so many people of faith," Cruz said in a statement on his website. "Believers are alarmed that their values are not being represented, nor their liberties respected, in Washington. This list reflects a wide range of denominations, ministries, geography, and church size."
That list isn’t as inclusive as Cruz lets on. Billed as being compiled of "More Than 200 Faith Leaders," the list is almost exclusively Christian.
But the lack of religious diversity isn’t the only problem when it comes to Cruz’s cronies. Many of the individuals listed publicly endorse views the average voter might find…extreme.
First of all, there’s Kevin Swanson, the infamous "kill the gays" preacher. He hosted the National Religious Liberties Conference earlier this month, at which Cruz appeared. Prior to welcoming the Texas senator onstage, Swanson delivered his rationale for why homosexuals should face the death penalty.
In the wake of the November 13 Paris attacks, Swanson called the victims of the Bataclan hostage assault "devil-worshipers," implying the attack was a punishment from God for attending a rock concert.
"There’s certainly a providential irony here," he said, according to the Daily Beast. "They went from singing about the devil to meeting the devil face-to-face."
Then there’s Philip "Flip" Benham, the head of Operation Save America. Benham is also famous for his devil-worshipping comparisons, likening Muslims, LGBT individuals, and even Unitarians – perhaps the most harmless group ever organized – to Satan.
Benham is also a convicted stalker, found guilty after handing out "wanted" posters with the name and photos of abortion doctors printed on them.
If that sounds harmless enough, another Cruz backer is Troy Newman. The head of Operation
Rescue, Newman has come under fire for personally advocating violence against abortion doctors.
"In addition to our personal guilt in abortion, the United States government has abrogated its responsibility to properly deal with the blood-guilty," he wrote in his book, "Their Blood Cries Out." "This responsibility rightly involves executing convicted murderers, including abortionists, for their crimes in order to expunge bloodguilt from the land and people."
Language like that was believed to have played a part in 51-year-old Scott Roeder’s decision to gun down a Kansas doctor in 2009.
According to Salon, Newman’s reputation as a violence-inciting radical is so well-known that he’s even been forbidden from entering all of Australia.
Yet, according to Cruz’s website, he is "grateful to receive the endorsement of Troy Newman…a voice for the unborn for over 25 years."
Cruz may be keeping a close eye on when Trump goes too far to the right, but with friends like these, he may have a hard time pulling back from the brink himself.