Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, attracted widespread mockery after he was caught looking to see if he was trending on Twitter after sparring with the Democratic committee chair during confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Joe Biden's nominee for the Supreme Court.
Jackson appeared visibly annoyed when Cruz—who was accused of grandstanding—mocked transgender people's identities by asking if he as a Hispanic man could "decide" to be Asian, and inquired whether he would "have the ability to be an Asian man and challenge Harvard’s discrimination" in a dig at affirmative action policies designed to improve employment or educational opportunities for underrepresented groups.
Jackson responded she was unable to answer the question because Cruz was asking her about "hypotheticals." Cruz was chastised by Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, for going over his time limit.
After sparring with Durbin, Cruz sat back, took out his phone, and checked his Twitter mentions to see if the moment had begun to trend online, an action confirmed by reporters tasked with covering Jackson's confirmation hearing.
The moment exposed Cruz to significant online ridicule
Cruz has made unsavory headlines the entire week of Jackson's hearings, including just before they began, when he was caught on video arguing with a law enforcement officer after berating Montana airport workers.
A video that went viral after being posted to Reddit shows a visibly agitated Cruz, having missed his check-in window for his flight, speaking with two representatives at the United Airlines check-in desk at Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport before law enforcement had to step in.
Although Cruz did eventually make it onto another flight, the incident drew comparisons to his highly controversial trip to Cancún during the February 2021 Texas power disaster, and prompted many to question why a prominent member on the Senate Judiciary Committee was not in Washington ahead of Jackson's highly anticipated confirmation hearings.
Cruz isn't the only Senate Judiciary Committee member to earn criticism for grandstanding.
Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who previously chaired the committee, has been criticized for often testy exchanges with Jackson, particularly over her sentencing record in child pornography cases, especially since he'd previously voted to confirm her to serve on one of the country's lower courts.
Graham has also been chastised for interrupting Jackson several times as she's attempted to respond to his questions, which have also required her to speak at length about how she engages with her faith on a daily basis.