Ted Cruz questions whether or not he should boycott the Winter Olympics over human rights abuses

Two days before his scheduled appearance at a Chinese Olympic committee’s meeting, Sen. Ted Cruz said the U.S. should not boycott the Winter Olympics in Beijing next year. Instead, he said American athletes should use the games to show Beijing’s human rights abuses to the world.

“America is not boycotting,” Cruz said in response to a reporter’s question Thursday. “American athletes should not be boycotting.

“Our athletes,” he continued, “should proudly represent the values that are important to us, which is freedom, and honor, and courage. Those will be the values that we’ll talk about at the dinner, and our athletes need to be telling the world just exactly what that is.”

The exchange comes after leading Republicans — including Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann and Florida Gov. Rick Scott — recently called for a boycott of the Winter Olympics if China continued to hold prisoners such as Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo.

Those calls gained momentum after the release of three remaining Chinese Nobel Prize laureates this week.

Cruz, meanwhile, spent a significant portion of Thursday’s 35-minute interview with WPLG-TV reporter Amanda Slavin mentioning gay rights and Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who earlier this year refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Shortly after WPLG aired the interview at 2:30 p.m., Cruz’s office called the station to clarify the senator’s stance on gay rights, as well as reject the suggestion he should boycott the Winter Olympics.

“My stance is that human rights are universal,” Cruz told Slavin. “You want a person of conscience to be able to practice his conscience, I believe that.”

“Human rights are universal and my position is that you allow for people to do what they feel is right under the law,” Cruz continued. “That goes regardless of what anyone thinks about their sexuality, their politics, their beliefs. That’s what the law of the land is. And I believe that the Constitution allows us to use those rights the way they’re meant to be used.”

Cruz criticized Davis for her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“I’m not a fan of any government officials violating their consciences,” Cruz said, in a continuing response. “But, I’m certainly not a fan of the government issuing marriage licenses under a position of conscience based on their views of marriage. So, I don’t endorse it or support it, but I think it would be extremely inappropriate for the federal government to intervene on someone’s consciences.”

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