Starting Wednesday night, Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Tex.) office was in damage control mode. Images had cropped up on social media appearing to show him heading for Cancun, Mexico, even as his state was struggling with a crippling winter storm that left many without heat or water. What followed wasn’t exactly a case study in transparency.

Cruz’s office declined for many hours to confirm the trip, eventually relenting when the senator decided to come home Thursday afternoon. Except its initial statement sure made it sound like the quick turnaround was the plan all along. Cruz said that his daughters had asked to go on a last-minute trip and “Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon.” But his office apparently realized rather quickly this wouldn’t hold up. They bowed to reality and acknowledged that Cruz had planned to stay longer before the backlash hit. He wasn’t just acting as some kind of chaperone, despite the implication. So they admitted it.

But even after all that, this narrative survived in one magical place: Sean Hannity’s Fox News show.

Hannity’s interview with Cruz on Thursday night was a case study in how Hannity launders bad news for Republicans — and why they go on his show when they run into these problems. But this was even more pronounced than usual, with Hannity offering a version of events that even Cruz had to gently correct. It was the kind of performance that should perhaps be considered an in-kind contribution to Cruz’s looming 2024 presidential campaign.

On no fewer than three occasions did Hannity repeat the previously abandoned suggestion that the 24-hour trip was maybe the plan all along.

“Now, Sen. Ted Cruz tonight is facing the ire of the mob — the media — for traveling to Cancun, Mexico, with his daughters to drop them off and come home,” Hannity began inauspiciously. Cruz did not travel there to drop them off. He traveled to be with them on the trip through the weekend.

Hannity continued: “Senator Cruz tonight did say, in retrospect, he might have made a mistake, adding in a statement, in part, ‘Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying … back this afternoon.’ And he did.” Yes, he did, but only after the outcry.

And then: “Now, you went, and you took your daughters to Cancun, and you came back. I think you can be a father and be the senator of Texas all at the same time and make a round-trip quick drop-off trip and come home.” Perhaps you can, but again, that wasn’t the plan. It was what happened after the situation became untenable.

All of which would have been a complete mystery to Hannity’s viewers, except that Cruz later punched a hole in Hannity’s repeated attempts to cover for him.

Despite initially granting the above premises, Cruz later volunteered that, “I had initially planned to stay through the weekend and to work remotely there, but as I was heading down there, you know, I started to have second thoughts almost immediately.”

Hannity’s determined lack of clarity on this point was particularly puzzling given how much reporting he had supposedly done on this topic. Early in the interview, he volunteered a new piece of information: Cruz had previously been in touch with a weather expert who appears on Hannity’s radio show. “And you were fully and completely engaged, and I know that from my own reporting on my own conversations with you and Governor [Greg] Abbott and with Joe Bastardi,” Hannity said.

Hannity reported out that bit of helpful information for Cruz, but apparently he didn’t bother to look at the details of Cruz’s actual, repeated explanations. He instead stuck by the initial, misleading explanation offered by Cruz’s office as if it were still operative.

Once Cruz set the record straight, though, Hannity was (mostly) done with what the “mob” had done to Cruz. He instead wanted to focus on other issues: praising Texas for its “brilliant” decision to keep its power grid separate from the federal one and attacking the use of wind turbines.

But even on this point, Cruz undermined his helpful host. “Now elsewhere, other colder climates are able to put treatments and lubricants on wind turbines so they can operate in the cold,” Cruz said. “But in Texas, that wasn’t predicted to happen and so, they didn’t do that.”

This has been a focal point of Fox News’s coverage — linking what happened in Texas to green energy and even using it to attack some Democrats’ Green New Deal proposal. There are myriad problems with those arguments, which have also been advanced by top Texas politicians such as Gov. Abbott (R).

But despite his host providing such a helpful forum, Cruz again undercut the narrative that was being spun.

“What we need to do is have a serious fact-based investigation — not based on politics, not based on the Green New Deal and where you are, and this policy and the other,” Cruz said. “It needs to be based on the evidence, based on the facts to say, ‘what happened? Why was the grid not there?’ ”

Despite Cruz declining to advance the narrative Hannity had set forth, though, Hannity wasn’t upset. To close out his interview, he yet again returned to the idea that Cruz was just being a good dad and that this was overblown.

“You made the right call coming back. You also can be a father,” Hannity told Cruz. “There’s also something called technology. We also know what teleworking is. And I think there’s a lot of sanctimony and politics being played in this attack.”

Just a couple minutes earlier, though, Cruz had said something far different.

“Because the crisis here in Texas — you need to be here on the ground,” Cruz said. “As much as you can do by phone and Zoom, it’s not the same as being here.”