WASHINGTON — Sen. Ted Cruz, ever eager to tap into cultural angst on the right, has accused the Army of projecting an image of “pansies” by featuring a female soldier raised by two moms in a recruiting ad.

He’s also spoken approvingly of Russia’s more macho outreach techniques, leading one critic to slam him as “Kremlin Cruz.”

“Pansy” has long been a gay slur, and the senator has repeatedly and unapologetically invoked the term in the past week.

“We’re seeing Democratic politicians, and these woke lefty bureaucrats and lefty media reporters, trying to destroy the American military trying to turn it in, into frankly a bunch of pansies. The job of the military is to kill the bad guys, and it is to strike fear in the enemies of America,” he told Fox News host Harris Faulkner, complaining of a “woke cancer” undermining U.S. military might.

The uproar has simmered since late last week, when Cruz retweeted a viral video that contrasts the Army ad featuring a female soldier who marched for gay rights as a girl with a Russian Army ad that shows shirtless, chiseled men doing pushups, paratroopers jumping from planes, and a sniper taking aim in the snow.

“Holy crap,” Cruz wrote in a tweet. “Perhaps a woke, emasculated military is not the best idea.”


A host of critics have accused him of amplifying Kremlin propaganda.

Some have demanded more precision, too: Is the U.S. Army “emasculated” by having more women in uniform? By being inclusive? Are women all “pansies” or is he referring to a coed fighting force?

Cruz calls it dishonest to interpret his comments as attacking the military, rather than the ad campaign and the ideology behind them.

The controversy began when the Army unveiled a new recruiting campaign. Five partly animated ads feature a variety a officers and enlisted personnel, including a first-generation immigrant, another who grew up on Army bases, and Cpl. Emma Malonelord — the one that caught Cruz’s eye.

“This is the story of a soldier who operates your nation’s Patriot Missile Defense Systems,” she says in her ad. “It begins in California with a little girl raised by two moms.”

Young Emma is seen playing violin and marching for gay rights — “I like to think I’ve been defending freedom from an early age.” She’s inspired by her mom’s persistence in recovering from a paralyzing accident, “to get back on her feet, eventually standing at the altar to marry my other mom.”


A top high school student and a sorority girl, “I needed my own adventures, my own challenge. And after meeting with an Army recruiter, I found it — a way to prove my inner strength and maybe shatter some stereotypes along the way.”

President Joe Biden ended a ban on transgender troops. His defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, has ordered diversity and inclusion training and focused on rooting out extremism in the ranks, an effort some conservatives view as an affront.

So the backlash the ad has provoked is part of a running tussle over military culture.

“Army ad about a woman with two lesbian moms who joined the Army to `discover her inner strength’ and `shatter stereotypes.’ We are the laughing stock of the world,” conservative writer and talk show host Matt Walsh wrote on Twitter.

That was a week before Cruz weighed in.

By then, a Tik Tok video contrasting the Malonelord ad with the Russian ad had gone viral. (The click count Tuesday topped 4.4 million.) Cruz retweeted it with the “woke, emasculated” comment.

“Russians are building a military focused on killing people and breaking things. We’re apparently building a military focused on being capable of explaining microaggressions and critical race theory to Afghan Tribesmen,” tweeted John Hawkins, a blogger who runs Right Wing News.


Former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka, now a radio and TV host, attacked Malonelord on right-wing Newsmax TV: “You are a disgrace to what it means to serve in the military at any rank of the soldier, Cpl. Emma Malonelord.”

As often happens when Cruz takes an edgy stance online, critics piled on, among them late night comics, LGBTQ advocates and Democratic veterans.

On Monday night, ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel jeeringly proposed an ad Cruz might find more to his liking: a photo of the senator checking in for a flight home from Mexico, as he abandoned a family getaway during a storm that left millions of Texans without heat or power.

“Army. Be all you Cancun be,” read the tag line, a play on the long running “Be all that you can be” recruitment campaign.

Lt. Gen. Ted Martin, deputy commanding general and chief of staff for the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, which includes the Army’s Recruiting Command, went about as far as an officer can go in slapping down a senator.

He didn’t mention Cruz by name. But Twitter followers had no trouble making the connection when he tweeted his admiration for Malonelord: “CPL Malonelord is an Air Defender, but I would take her as a member of my tank crew (Gunner!) RIGHT NOW! #WeHaveTheBestPeople.”


A recurring theme in the anti-Cruz blowback centered on the way he kowtowed to Donald Trump after losing the 2016 GOP nomination, even though the future president had denigrated his wife and claimed — without a shred of evidence — that his dad was part of the JFK assassination plot.

“Alexa, how can you easily spot the guys who are intensely insecure about their own masculinity?” tweeted MJ Hegar, the decorated Air Force combat pilot who lost to Sen. John Cornyn last fall.

“Ted Cruz unironically using the word `emasculated’ at all is hilarious. This hang nail of a human kissed the ass of a bully who called his wife ugly and accused his dad of murder!” tweeted Jason Kander, an Army National Guard intelligence officer who ran for U.S. Senate in Missouri in 2016.

They and other Democratic veterans relished the opening to lob opprobrium at Cruz.

“Ted Cruz attacks a US Army soldier for telling her story, says he prefers Russians. Because Ted Cruz is a sedition-loving traitor,” asserted Vote Vets, which promotes progressive candidates who served in uniform.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat, also referred to Cruz’s support for Trump’s effort to overturn President Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory, which culminated in the Jan. 6 invasion of the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.


Duckworth, a veteran who lost both legs in 2004 when Iraqi insurgents shot down the Black Hawk helicopter she was piloting, called Cruz’s comments “shameful” and accusing him of “pushing white supremacist propaganda and denigrating the United States military” that had protected him and others during the riot.

Charlotte Clymer, a transgender Army veteran from Texas and former spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for LGBTQ rights, pushed back on the idea that women in uniform undermine military readiness.

Two women have earned the Silver Star for valor in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, she noted, 50 have graduated from U.S. Army Ranger School, and more than 150 have died in the War on Terror.

“Women have been leading from the front in Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite being an able-bodied young man, Ted Cruz didn’t serve a single day in uniform after our country was attacked. He’s a coward and hypocrite, and the women he mocks are still serving every day to protect people like him who are ungrateful for their sacrifices,” she said.

Like Kimmel, MSNBC’s Brian Williams reminded viewers about Cruz’s brief excursion to Mexico in February.

Noting he’d bristled at the moniker “Cancun Cruz,” Williams said on his show, “11th Hour,” “he really won’t like being called ‘Kremlin Cruz” after his latest and remarkably stupid lapse in judgment. Remember as you watch this just how much Ted Cruz dreams of being president of a country someday, perhaps not this country.”


Williams then showed the Russian military recruitment video Cruz posted, with his “holy crap” comment.

Cruz asserted that he simpl­y “was arguing that our military needs to be able to kick the ass of Russian soldiers” and accused Williams of “throwing a hissy fit.”

As a counterpunch, he also recalled Williams losing the anchor desk at NBC after embellishing claims about a combat zone close call.

“You are Pravda,” Cruz asserted, referring to the Kremlin-controlled news outlet whose Orwellian name translates to “truth.”