- Ted Cruz suggested the U.S. might have to kill the Iranian ayatollah if Iran tries to acquire a nuclear weapon
- "And if the ayatollah doesn't understand that, we may have to help introduce him to the 72 virgins," Cruz said
Speaking at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, Cruz launched into his usual stump speech denouncing the Iran nuclear deal, vowing to tear it up on the first day of his administration.
"And if the ayatollah doesn't understand that, we may have to help introduce him to the 72 virgins," Cruz said, grinning as the crowd cheered in approval. He was referring to the belief among some Islamic extremists that they will receive 72 virgins in the afterlife upon martyrdom.
Cruz, whose stump speech routinely features a parade of exaggerations and laugh lines that are typically well received by his conservative audiences, frequently calls the Iranian leader a "radical theocratic zealot" but rarely calls for such direct action to be taken against him.
He's been among the Republican 2016 field's harshest critics of the nuclear deal, and regularly says that Obama's agreement makes him the "leading financier" of state-sponsored terrorism.
Basking in victory after hardliners like himself helped pressure John Boehner to resign the House speakership hours earlier, Cruz was at his rhetorical peak at the summit, revealing some new gambits to the Christian activists. In his opening round of jokes, the Texas senator called Barack Obama -- not the visiting Chinese president -- "the world's most powerful communist."
He also joked that the upcoming Democratic debate should be held at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the site of a military prison that is currently being reviewed as a possible place to house inmates from Guantanamo Bay.