NEW YORK — When Ted Cruz sneered at what he called Donald Trump's "New York values," some New Yorkers took it very personally. And some responded about the way you'd expect New Yorkers to react.
The ever-combative Daily News hit the streets with a big front-page illustration of the Statue of Liberty giving Cruz the finger. The headline: "DROP DEAD, TED."
The Texas senator's use of "New York values" as a term of abuse during Thursday night's Republican presidential debate rankled plenty of city residents.
"Like that's a bad thing?" Willie Perry, a real estate salesman and registered Republican, said as he headed to work in the city. "Actually it's a good thing. I think that's ludicrous. What did he mean by that?"
John Markowski, a minister who was dropping his son off at a public school, said: "It's insulting for anyone to make a derogatory comment about New York values. I think we pride ourselves on being a place of diversity and equality."
Cruz's comments also raised hackles in some quarters because, historically, saying something is "too New York" has sometimes been code for "too Jewish."
Mark Silk, a professor of religion in public life at Trinity College, said that while he has no reason to believe Cruz is anti-Semitic, "he's conjuring up an image of a fast-talking, secular, money-preoccupied, media-saturated New York character. That's a caricature, I would say, of a certain kind of Jew."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, liberal Democrats, demanded an apology.
After a campaign event Friday in Columbia, South Carolina, Cruz was asked if he planned to apologize.
"I'm happy to apologize," Cruz said. "I apologize to the millions of New Yorkers who have been let down by liberal politicians in that state."
He then ripped Cuomo for blocking natural gas drilling and accused de Blasio of failing to support the police during protests over a man's death in an officer's chokehold in 2014. He said the mayor "stands with the looters and criminals rather than the brave men and women in blue."
During Thursday night's GOP debate, moderator Maria Bartiromo asked Cruz to explain past comments he had made about Trump embodying "New York values."
"You know, I think most people know exactly what New York values are," Cruz said.
"I am from New York. I don't," Bartiromo said.
So the GOP conservative explained: "Listen, there are many, many wonderful, wonderful working men and women in the state of New York. But everyone understands that the values in New York City are socially liberal or pro-abortion or pro-gay-marriage, focus around money and the media."
Trump responded by citing the city's response to the Sept. 11 attacks.
"When the World Trade Center came down, I saw something that no place on Earth could have handled more beautifully, more humanely than New York," he said to applause from the crowd in North Charleston, South Carolina. He added: "I have to tell you, that was a very insulting statement that Ted made."
Rep. Steve King, a conservative Iowa Republican who supports Cruz, suggested on CNN that Cruz's remark had backfired, saying, "It would have been better on the part of Ted Cruz not to have had that exchange."
One in 38 Americans lives in New York City, but the state's record of going for the Democrat in the winner-take-all electoral college system means Republicans rarely have to worry about insulting the populace.
Bashing the big city has long been a winning strategy in more conservative parts of the country, namely the Midwest and the South. (Likewise, New Yorkers have long been famous for looking down their noses at — well, everyone).
Not a lot of New Yorkers have given money to Cruz's bid for the White House. His campaign took in only about $487,000 from New York contributors through Sept. 30, according to the most recent filings. But one New Yorker, Wall Street hedge fund mogul Robert Mercer, contributed $11 million last April to a super PAC that supports Cruz.
De Blasio said Cruz "has no trouble taking money from New York City, but he's quick to insult our people and our values."