Cruz: Obama has 'inflamed racial tensions'
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Presidential hopeful Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTrade deal talks expand as Congress debates tech legal shield Sanders meets with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred Cruz knocks Chick-fil-A over past donation: It has 'lost its way' MORE (R-Texas) on Wednesday said President Obama has “inflamed racial tensions” while in office, calling his leadership “disappointing.”

“He’s made decisions that I think have inflamed racial tensions, that have divided us, rather than bringing us together,” Cruz said.

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Cruz cited Obama’s comments regarding Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, who was arrested outside Gates's home in 2009 when an officer thought he was trying to break in. After saying the officer had “acted stupidly” in the case, Obama invited the two men to the White House for a “beer summit.”

“He has exacerbated racial misunderstanding, racial tensions. From back at the beer summit to a series of efforts to pit Americans against each other,” Cruz said.

“And part of the problem is the way he advocates for any given plan is to build a straw man and then vilify a caricature.”

Obama's views on race relations were thrust back into the spotlight this week after rioting in Baltimore over the death of Freddie Gray, a black man who died in police custody. It was just the latest instance of Obama speaking about what he called on Tuesday a "slow-rolling" national crisis in minority communities.

Cruz’s remarks came at a Hispanic Chamber of Commerce event in Washington. He did not speak at the Chamber’s summit last month, a decision that was criticized by Chamber President Javier Palomarez.

The White House contender told the Chamber crowd that Obama and other Democrats would rather scare Hispanics into voting for them than solve the nation’s immigration problems.

“I think they are treating immigration as a political cudgel, where they want to use it to scare the Hispanic community,” he said.

“Their objective is to have the Hispanic community vote monolithically Democrat as, unfortunately, they have succeeded in scaring the African-American community to do.”

Palomarez said Wednesday that the conversation with Cruz was meant to “set the record straight” on the GOP presidential candidate’s views on issues that concern Hispanics.

He asked Cruz about his Spanish-language announcement video, which did not mention his opposition to Obama’s healthcare law and immigration executive actions. His English announcement video included both, and Palomarez noted criticism from Time magazine and others on the subject

“That’s what the media is going to do. They are not neutral observers. The media are Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaButtigieg draws fresh scrutiny, attacks in sprint to Iowa The shifting impeachment positions of Jonathan Turley Kerry endorses Biden in 2020 race: He 'can beat Donald Trump' MORE’s chief protectors right now, and no one is more ‘Ready for Hillary’ than the mainstream media,” Cruz said.

“My messaging is going to be consistent throughout … my views are not hard to figure out, whether you like them or not.”

When asked about the Hispanic community’s unwillingness to back GOP candidates, Cruz said that Hispanics are a “fundamentally conservative community” and that Republicans need to connect with shared values.

“If you look at the values that resonate in our community, they are faith, family, patriotism, hard work,” he said.

He added that the Hispanic commitment to hard work is the reason he has never seen a Hispanic panhandler, because, “in our community, it would be shameful to be begging on the street.”

“If you want someone to work their fingers to their bone, hard work, you'll have Hispanic men and women lining up to work hard to provide for their families. Those are all conservative values."

Cruz also used the economy to hit Obama and his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

“I’m always happy whenever President Obama or Hillary Clinton talks about income inequality, because it has increased dramatically under their policies,” he said.

“When you hammer small businesses, and people cant get jobs, the people that are hurt the most are the people at the [bottom].”

He compared his share of the Hispanic vote in Texas during his 2012 Senate bid, about 40 percent, with Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s national support from Hispanics of under 30 percent.

Cruz said his polling showed that the main reason Romney performed poorly with Hispanics wasn’t his controversial “self-deportation” comments, but his lack of relatability and comment that 47 percent of the electorate relies on government and will never support Republicans.

“I can not think of a statement in all of politics I disagree with more strongly,” he said.

“Republicans should be the party of the 47 percent.”

— This story was updated at 6:32 p.m.