Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is the only senator who joined the congressional delegation at Nelson Mandela's memorial service Tuesday, and one of only two Republicans.
The delegation was led by Rep. Aaron Schock of Illinois, the only other Republican who made the trip to South Africa
. The 22 member congressional group was composed primarily of Democrats, many of them members of the Congressional Black Caucus, CNN reported.
The trip was authorized by House Speaker John Boehner, who chose Schock to attend on his behalf. Schock said he was "humbled" by Boehner's request to lead the delegation, which was open to the Senate as well.
Cruz was apparently the only member of the Senate who made the trip. "Senator Cruz requested to go," said Don Stewart, spokesman for House Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
"Nelson Mandela will live in history as an inspiration for defenders of liberty around the globe," Cruz said in a statement issued Dec. 5, the day Mandela died. "He stood firm for decades on the principle that until all South Africans enjoyed equal liberties he would not leave prison himself."
The statement surprised some Republican operatives and apparently angered some of Cruz's Facebook followers
, although most indicated that they "Liked" his comment.
"Wow you stepped in it this time," wrote Seliqua Bodina. "Why don't all you Mandela lovers head on over to South Africa and see what's going on now that 'Mandela's people' have control of the nation . . . get out and mix with the people, experience what life is really like. Especially if you're white."
Republican strategist John Feehery told CNN that he was "speechless" when he heard the tea party favorite and potential 2016 presidential candidate was attending the Mandela memorial service. But Feehery said, "Good for him."
"You look like a statesmen; you make invaluable contacts, since every important person in the world is going to be there," he added.
About the negative comments directed at Cruz, Feehery said, "Sometimes the best way to be a profile in courage is by taking on the nut jobs."
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