Ted Cruz–Zodiac Killer meme
The Ted Cruz–Zodiac Killer meme is a mock-conspiracy theory popularized on the Internet during Ted Cruz's candidacy for President in 2015–16. The Internet meme facetiously suggests that United States Senator and former 2016 presidential candidate Ted Cruz was the Zodiac Killer, an unidentified Californian serial killer of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Cruz, born in 1970, could not have committed these murders, which began before his birth. Circulators of the meme do not genuinely believe that he was the Zodiac Killer, citing the absurdity of its premise; NPR wrote that the meme captured "a feeling they have about Cruz: they think he's creepy. And they want to point that out, as clearly as they can."
Origin and spread
A January 2016 investigation by Miles Klee of The Daily Dot found the first use of the meme to be by a Twitter user in March 2013, as Cruz was speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference and vowing to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The meme was not repeated until November 2014, by another Twitter user writing about Cruz's proposal against net neutrality.
It continued in obscurity up to February 2016, when another Twitter user used Photoshop to edit a picture of a Republican debate in order to include "Is Ted Cruz the Zodiac Killer?" in the interactive ticker at the bottom. That month, "is ted cruz the zodiac killer" was the second highest suggestion in Google's autocomplete for "is ted", but by April it was not in the autocomplete at all. News.com.au writer Matthew Dunn suggested that Google was censoring the search term, showing evidence that it accounted for 89% of total searches when compared to other terms in the autocomplete.
In April 2016, the Houston Chronicle said the meme "... has a following. A Facebook group named for the meme has more than 27,000 members. A Google search turns up 621,000 hits, including exploratory articles by some of the biggest news publications on the web".
Cruz himself has jocularly alluded to the meme by tweeting one of the Zodiac Killer's cryptograms; first in October 2017 responding to a retweet from Senator Ben Sasse referring to Cruz as "the son of the guy who killed Kennedy" (a reference to a conspiracy theory involving Rafael Cruz) and then wishing a "Happy Halloween" in 2018.
In popular culture
After the edited image showing the question on Google trended, the meme spread into popular culture. Books about Cruz being the Zodiac Killer, including romantic ones, were listed on Amazon.com.
In February 2016, Public Policy Polling asked registered voters in Florida ahead of the Republican primary if they believed Cruz to be the Zodiac Killer; 10% believed and 28% were not sure. The other 62% did not think he was.
Comedian Larry Wilmore made references to the meme in his April 2016 routine at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, including a joke that Cruz was not campaigning to win the nomination, but to continue a murder spree.
Lindsey Martin, a Twitter user who helped circulate the meme, told NPR that she did so because it is "so obviously untrue... if there was any way that it could possibly be true I would be scared to joke about it just because of the repercussions". The Verge writer Kaitlyn Tiffany opined that some may consider the subject of the meme to be "distasteful and irresponsible, even dangerous". Leigh Alexander considered its spread an example of the growing political engagement of youth, writing that in such memes, "the political figure is exaggerated, his context made grotesque or fantastical, just as in traditional political cartooning." According to Lozano, the point of the meme is to "[demonize] his character". Heidi Cruz responded to the meme by stating that she has "been married to him for 15 years, and I know pretty well who he is, so it doesn't bother me at all. There's a lot of garbage out there". Ted Cruz acknowledged the meme on his official Twitter account on October 18 by tweeting an image of one of the Zodiac Killer's encrypted messages, and again on October 31 of the following year.
- Sanders, Sam (February 26, 2016). "#MemeOfTheWeek: Ted Cruz And The Zodiac Killer". NPR. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
- Baddour, Dylan (26 April 2016). "Killer cocktail named after Ted Cruz, sort of". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
- Klee, Miles (January 25, 2016). "Ted Cruz has yet to deny that he's the Zodiac Killer". The Daily Dot. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
- Tiffany, Kaitlyn (February 26, 2016). "Who called Ted Cruz the Zodiac Killer, why, and is he?". The Verge. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
- Dunn, Matthew (April 21, 2016). "Google removes 'Is Ted Cruz the Zodiac Killer' suggestion, despite it being most popular search". News.com.au. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
- Cruz, Ted (18 October 2017). "[untitled tweet]". Twitter. Retrieved 1 November 2018.; Thomsen, Jacqueline (18 October 2017). "Cruz tweets reference to Zodiac killer meme". TheHill. Retrieved 1 November 2018.
- Cruz, Ted (31 October 2018). "Happy Halloween". Twitter. Retrieved 1 November 2018.; Rodrigo, Chris Mills (31 October 2018). "Ted Cruz wishes happy Halloween with Zodiac killer letter". TheHill. Retrieved 1 November 2018.
- Stuart, Tessa (February 26, 2016). "Is Ted Cruz the Zodiac Killer? Maybe, Say 38 Percent of Florida Voters". Rolling Stone. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
- "Trump Leads Rubio in Florida- Even Head to Head" (PDF). Public Policy Polling. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
- Ayala, Christine (May 1, 2016). "Larry Wilmore: Of course 'everybody hates' Ted Cruz, he's the Zodiac Killer". Dallas Morning News. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
- Moore, Jack (April 27, 2016). "Ted Cruz Is Doing Very Little to Disprove He's the Zodiac Killer". GQ. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
- Huppke, Rex (April 25, 2016). "Ted Cruz's cowardly anti-transgender stance". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
- Alexander, Leigh (May 4, 2016). "Blame it on the Zodiac killer: did social media ruin Ted Cruz's campaign?". The Guardian. Retrieved May 13, 2016.
- "Heidi Cruz responds to people who call her husband the Zodiac Killer". Yahoo! News. Retrieved May 13, 2016.
- Victor, Daniel (October 18, 2017). "Ted Cruz, Who Is Not the Zodiac Killer, Acknowledges a Long-Running Joke". The New York Times. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
- "Ted Cruz Twitter". Twitter.com. October 31, 2018. Retrieved November 2, 2018.