AUSTIN, Texas — Republican Sen. Ted Cruz accused Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke of making offensive comments about police officers during their first debate of the Texas Senate race.
The attack came amid heightened attention in Texas on fatal shootings involving police officers. Last month, a white Dallas police officer shot and killed her unarmed black neighbor, whose apartment she says she mistook for her own. The officer, who was fired from her job Monday, is free on bond after being booked on a preliminary charge of manslaughter in the slaying of 26-year-old Botham Jean.
During the debate Friday, Cruz accused O'Rourke of referring last week to police as a "modern-day Jim Crow," which O'Rourke denied at the event. Following the freeing of slaves, states and cities across the South created laws, commonly known as Jim Crow, which enforced segregation and discrimination during the 19th century.
A look at Cruz's claim:
CRUZ: "Congressman O'Rourke described law enforcement, described police officers, as modern-day Jim Crow. Let me say something: I have gotten to know police officers all across this state. That is offensive."
THE FACTS: Cruz oversimplifies what O'Rourke said.
Cruz appears to be referring to comments O'Rourke made last week at Prairie View A&M University, a historically black college outside Houston, in which he used the phrase "new Jim Crow" while discussing the need for criminal justice reform. He described a prison system after the emancipation of slaves in 1865 that treated blacks unjustly and said problems "continue to persist today."
At the event, O'Rourke went on to say: "That system of suspecting 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, letting them rot behind bars, solely based on the color of their skin. It is why, some have called this, and I think it is an apt description, the new Jim Crow."
O'Rourke has also used "Jim Crow" while discussing the war on drugs, including at a town hall at a black church on Sept. 14 in Dallas. O'Rourke, who supports marijuana legalization, railed against the impact it has had on the black community.
"This justification for taking the lives of people, and disproportionately people of color on illegal drugs in this country has rightfully been called the new Jim Crow. It has kept people out of civic life in this country," he said.