As the world continued to mourn the devastation of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris after it was heavily damaged by a fire this week, one person on Wednesday took a stab at lightening the mood: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.).
“Wonderful!” Cruz tweeted, sharing news that Disney had pledged $5 million to help restore the Parisian landmark. “Will we see Disney princesses in the new stained glass?”
With that, the Texas Republican swiftly fell victim to the dreaded Twitter ratio, his tweet getting nearly 10 times as many comments as retweets. Many condemned his joke as “totally inappropriate” and “insensitive” and demanded he delete his account. A spokesman for Cruz did not respond to a request for comment early Thursday.
“[I]magine taking a genuinely good thing and then making the world’s stupidest, most insensitive statement to commend it,” one Twitter user wrote.
Cruz’s tweet is yet another example of the dangers of trying to find humor in emotionally charged situations, especially for politicians who often have to balance wanting to show their personalities on social media with still maintaining the proper decorum expected of their positions. Cruz, in particular, has drawn attention for venturing into the humorous side of Twitter, and his attempts have been met with both praise and ridicule.
On Wednesday, Disney joined other companies such as Apple and some of France’s richest families to contribute funds to rebuild the cathedral, which, among other significant damages, lost its towering spire to the blaze. Hundreds of millions of dollars have already been raised through private donations, The Washington Post has reported.
“Notre-Dame is a beacon of hope and beauty that has defined the heart of Paris and the soul of France for centuries, inspiring awe and reverence for its art and architecture and for its enduring place in human history,” Disney chief executive Bob Iger said in a Wednesday statement.
Then, just hours after the announcement was made, Cruz’s tweet appeared and the reactions poured in.
Some people were confused.
Others quickly pointed out the glaring error in Cruz’s joke — church officials have said the intricate stained glass windows, some of which date back to the 12th and 13th centuries, most likely survived the fire.
“Just wanted to let you know the stained glass was spared ...” one user wrote. “But now that I am here, I realise that you would make a perfect gargoyle.”
“He’s trying to make a joke like a real human might but . . . he ends up sounding like Mike Huckabee,” tweeted author Molly Jong-Fast.
Celebrities also weighed in.
“Classy,” commented Lee Unkrich, the Oscar-winning director behind films such as “Toy Story 3” and “Coco.”
Wednesday marked Cruz’s latest try at Twitter humor. Last Halloween, in what many felt was an effort be “relatable,” Cruz tweeted a picture of the Zodiac Killer’s cipher, making light of a popular meme that claims he is the elusive serial killer. In 2017, he also joked about his resemblance to Grayson Allen, then a basketball standout at Duke University who now plays for the Utah Jazz, earning him a terse rebuke from the sports website Deadspin.
In the aftermath of Monday’s tragedy, Cruz hasn’t been the only person to draw backlash for ill-timed attempts at humorous commentary. Much to the horror of many, as firefighters were still scrambling to extinguish the raging flames, social media was inundated with jokes and memes about Quasimodo, the main character from Victor Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame,” who was brought to life in Disney’s 1996 animated film of the same name.
However, not everyone thought the idea of Disney characters on the stained glass at the cathedral was a bad one.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly dated the Notre Dame’s spire. It was added in the 19th century.