It was Texas Senator Ted Cruz who took the prize this past weekend for the most outlandish claim regarding the man who opened fire on a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, Colorado that left three dead on Friday.
With details and facts still emerging over the Friday shooting, the junior senator first took the opportunity to denounce the "vicious rhetoric on the left, blaming those who are pro-life" to reporters in Newton, Iowa, the New York Times reported. Cruz, who called the gunman "deranged" also added that shooter Robert Dear was "registered to vote as a woman" adding, "it's also reported that he was registered as an independent and as a woman and a transgender leftist activist."
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A Cruz spokesman later clarified to the press that the candidate was not saying any of this himself, but that new information was constantly coming in and it was too soon to jump to conclusions about Dear's political leanings.
While it appears that Dear was in fact registered to vote as a woman, no evidence suggests that Dear is either transgender or a "leftist activist." On the contrary, as ThinkProgress pointed out, a New York Times profile of Dear described him as "generally conservative." In addition to targeting the party's consistent bugaboo, Planned Parenthood, Dear was reported to have told police when he was apprehended, "No more baby parts."
Other presidential candidates have been jumping into the fray on the tragedy. Donald Trump called the alleged gunman a maniac, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson cited hostility from "both sides," saying "there is no saint here in this," while other candidates have remained silent on the issue.
In debates and campaign appearances, Republican presidential hopefuls have trumpeted false reports of baby selling at the organization with former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina memorably telling an audience during a debate that she had seen video footage of a "fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says 'we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.'"
While a number of videos have been released showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing the transfer of fetal tissue for medical research (FactCheck.org provided evidence that the videos were edited), the footage Fiorina spoke of has never been produced, and her claims have been repeatedly challenged. She, as well as Cruz, have made defunding Planned Parenthood a central part of their presidential campaigns.
The violence in Colorado is only the most recent in a long string of attacks Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers have faced from those with opposing political views. Among those attacks have been bomb threats, arson, acid attacks and anthrax threats.
With the Colorado shooter alive and in custody, however, truths about Dear's identity and his motivations are bound to come out sooner or later — so stayed tuned.