Republican unity façade shattered as Cruz jeered for refusing to back Trump

Cruz’s wife, Heidi, escorted off the floor out of concern for her safety following her husband’s speech

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US Senator Ted Cruz refused to endorse Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump at the Party’s convention on Wednesday, drawing angry jeers from Trump supporters and shattering the facade of party unity that has been carefully built up in Cleveland this week.

Anti-Trump Republican delegate Ken Cuccinelli told Reuters he escorted Cruz’s wife, Heidi, off the floor out of concern for her safety following her husband’s speech. Cruz stopped short of endorsing Trump after a bitter and personal campaign and mentioned him only once, drawing boos and repeated chants of “We want Trump.”

Cuccinelli, a former Virginia attorney general, said: “When the speech ended, there was an ugly crowd behind us.” A witness said one person shouted: “Goldman Sachs” at Heidi Cruz in reference to her employment at the investment bank.

Cruz began his speech saying: “I want to congratulate Donald Trump on winning the nomination last night.”

Later in the speech, he urged: “Please, don’t stay home in November. Stand, and speak, and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.”

Some critics saw the appeal for people to vote their conscience as a vote of no-confidence in Trump. Republican strategist Eric Fehrnstrom, who is not affiliated with any campaign, tweeted: “’Vote your conscience’ was the rallying cry of the Never Trump movement. For Cruz to bring that message into #RNC hall was a colossal error.”

“It’s taken me about 30 minutes to calm down and stop shaking with anger,” said Erik Layton, an alternate delegate from California who had shouted: “Go home” at Cruz after his speech. “I just don't know why Cruz did this. It baffles my mind.”

In a tweet after the convention adjourned for the night, Trump wrote that Cruz broke a promise they both had made to endorse the party’s White House choice. “Wow, Ted Cruz got booed off the stage, didn’t honor the pledge! I saw his speech two hours early but let him speak anyway. No big deal!” Trump wrote.

The drama did not prevent Trump’s vice presidential running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, from receiving a raucous welcome inside the convention hall to end the day’s events. Accepting the convention’s nomination, Pence spoke of Trump as a friend of the working class who has persevered in the business world. “He’s a doer in a game usually reserved for talkers,” Pence said.

Trump briefly joined Pence on the stage, shook his hand, patted him on the back, gave a thumbs-up and, in a signal to the crowd, pointed at Pence. But the Cruz speech, the latest in a series of disruptions, overshadowed any show of solidarity.