CLEVELAND — Ted Cruz remained defiant Thursday morning — a day after being widely criticized for not endorsing Donald Trump during a speech at the Republican National Convention — saying that he was making the kind of principled stand that GOP needs more of.
"I'm not going to lie to you: What I said last night is what I believe," Cruz said during an often-contentious Q&A session with the Texas delegation.
Cruz also explained why he had broken his pledge to support the GOP nominee, which he vowed to do during the party’s primary. The criticism from Trump of his wife, Heidi, crossed a line he said.
“I am not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father,” he said. “And that pledge was not a blanket commitment that if you go and slander and attack Heidi that I’m going to nonetheless come like a servile puppy dog.”
He continued to decline to say whether he would vote for the GOP presidential nominee.
“I am doing what millions of Americans are doing,” he said. “I’m watching. I’m listening. And as I told you last night, the standard I intend to hold is which candidate I trust to defend our freedom.”
But he did reassure delegates of one thing: "I can tell you, I'm not voting for Hillary."
Cruz also made it clear that he didn't think anyone should write in his name when they vote for president.
"I'm not a candidate in this race," he said.
His comments Friday ensure that the rift between the runner-up finisher in the GOP presidential primary and pro-Trump Republicans will continue past the RNC, fueling questions about whether ideological conservatives will support the Republican ticket in November.
Cruz received a standing ovation from his home-state delegates when he entered the room.
But many of the gathered Republicans were evidently upset with him.
One man stood up with a sign that said "Clinton/Cruz 2020." He refused to sit until the senator acknowledged him.
"Thank you, sir," Cruz said to his critic.
Another yelled “The party has spoken!” at Cruz as he was speaking to the delegation.
“Sir, I’m happy to answer questions,” the senator replied, “but I’m not going to engage in a screaming match. I actually believe in treating people with civility and respect.”
And a third man in the audience yelled at the senator that the primary attacks were just politics and he needed to get over it.
“No, this is not politics … right and wrong matters,” Cruz responded.
Cruz, who received a standing ovation when he walked in the hotel banquet room, did receive applause and cheers of approval throughout his speech.
Drinda Randall, a 47-year-old delegate from Plano, later said that she “loves” Cruz but disagreed with his speech last night.
It’s the kind of thing, she said, that could come back to haunt him when he runs for re-election in 2018.
“He may think he’s safe in Texas, but that was a bad calculation,” Randall said.
Cruz even took a shot at the New York delegation, which was vocal in its displeasure with the former presidential candidate during the end of his speech. The senator noted they were booing him when he was talking about the need to elect a constitutional conservative.
"I gotta say, that's a little bit troubling what they're saying," he said.
The former presidential candidate also drew a direct parallel between Republicans urging him to support Trump and the pressure to support Congressional leaders in Washington.
“Any time you stand up to John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, leadership screams, “Support the team. You’re a Republican. We are leadership. Sit down shut up just the support the team.’”
“And dammit if that’s the price, I’m not going to do it,” Cruz said.
The senator’s position earned him loud boos on the convention floor Wednesday, and the condemnation from many GOP leaders continued Thursday.
“He made a mistake,” said Texas Gov. Rick Perry, during a brief interview. “When you find yourself in a hole, quit digging.”
Oklahoma Gov. Marry Fallin called Cruz’s speech a “slap in the face of the Republican Party.”
“I think he missed a great opportunity to show that he’s a true conservative who will stand with the arena of people and the 14 million or so people that voted for Donald Trump as our nominee,” she said. “It’s all right to come and talk about your principles and what you stand for, but it’s not all right to basically do what he did last night and diss the candidate.”