Sen. Ted Cruz brings podcast to Tuscaloosa 


CW / Natalie Teat

Michael Knowles, Liz Wheeler and Ted Cruz record an episode of “Verdict With Ted Cruz” in front of a live audience at the Tuscaloosa River Market on April 18, 2022.

Correction on April 20: Young Americans for Freedom VP Wyatt Eichholz said the organizations hosts events “to let people know that conservatives exist at Alabama,” not “in Alabama.” 

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz hosted his podcast “Verdict with Ted Cruz” live from the Tuscaloosa River Market Monday night. 

“Verdict with Ted Cruz” 

The UA chapter of Young Americans for Freedom hosted the event in conjunction with its national counterpart, the Young America’s Federation. 

Co-host Michael Knowles and special guest Liz Wheeler joined Cruz on stage. 

Cruz and Knowles launched the podcast over two years ago. They are currently touring college campuses across the country, with their most recent stop at Yale University on April 11. 

Attendees lined up outside of the Tuscaloosa River Market almost two hours before the event, and more than 250 people were in attendance by the time it began. 

“It has exceeded all my expectations,” Cruz said of the college tour. “We’ve seen terrific discussions — really candid, sometimes heated, but always respectful. And that’s a nice combination, something that one doesn’t get all that often in today’s political environment.”


The live taping featured discussion between the hosts before opening the discussion to the audience. Individuals self-identifying as left- and right-wing went up to the mic and asked questions about topics including prisoner treatment at Guantanamo Bay, “Don’t Say Gay” bills, Constitutional amendments, contraception and self-censorship. 

Many supporters of the “Don’t Say Gay” bills call critics of the bill “groomers.” They believe that teaching children about LGBTQ topics should be considered grooming behavior.

“I do think it is different from actual sexual predators that are trying to violate children,” Cruz said. 

In response to a question about the treatment of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay and waterboarding, Knowles said “waterboarding jihadis should be an Olympic sport.”

Knowles said that if he could amend the Constitution, he would get rid of the 17th Amendment, which allows for the direct election of senators by voters. When the 17th Amendment was ratified and state governments lost the power to choose their senators, he said it “destroyed any power that the states had in the national government.”

Young Americans for Freedom

In a video announcing stops at The University of Alabama and Yale University, Cruz and his co-hosts referenced an editorial from The Crimson White that criticized Student Government Association presidential candidate Sarah Shields’ affiliation with YAF. 

In the video, Cruz called The Crimson White “an angry, leftist newspaper” and said the editorial “read like a parody.” Cruz said he has not read other work published by The Crimson White, but stood by his criticism of the paper and its characterization of YAF. 

YAF Vice President Wyatt Eichholz said the UA chapter of YAF chose not to submit an opinion in response to The Crimson White’s editorial due to a “hostile relationship.” 

“Historically, in the past, The Crimson White has been not very positive about the events that YAF has held. It’s been a bit of a hostile relationship … so we chose to go independent of The Crimson White and publish our own information our own way. We certainly have our own means of getting our information out there,” Eichholz said. 

YAF posted a statement calling for the defunding of The Crimson White in response to the editorial. The statement has since been deleted, but Eichholz declined to comment on the decision.  

“There’s a difference between disagreeing with an opinion — even disagreeing with it strongly — or ridiculing it and calling for the person who wrote it not to be allowed to speak it,” Wheeler said.

Eichholz said YAF wants to communicate the conservative movement to students through their events. 

“The reason why we bring conservative speakers like Ted Cruz, and like Michael Knowles, is we [YAF] want to open up the dialogue and open up the speech so that students are able to exchange ideas,” Eichholz said. “The purpose of hosting these events is to let people know that conservatives exist at Alabama, and that we deserve to have our ideas heard. And we’re going to bring speakers who are willing to express those ideas.”