Sen. Ted Cruz walked on stage to extraordinary cheers, and walked off to deafening boos after the Texas senator and former Donald Trump rival failed to endorse the party's nominee at his own convention.
Cruz had signaled in advance he wouldn't be endorsing Trump. But the delegate derision for his refusal was hearty, heated, and unexpected, particularly after Cruz had earned hundreds of delegates and spent months ensuring his own supporters would fill the delegate seats on the floor of tonight’s convention.
Cruz’s speech was heartfelt and somber and captivated the audience, but when he launched into the policy prescriptions common at his own campaign events and his own immigrant family story, the crowd grew frustrated. “Endorse Trump!” they cried. “Trump! Trump! Trump!"
“I appreciate the enthusiasm of the New York delegation,” Cruz said dismissively. This infuriated them more, and the Texas senator left the stage to deafening boos with a forced smile.
Before Cruz's speech was over, however, Trump himself appeared in the audience and gave a small wave, even as the boos were raining down on the Texas senator, who gestured back.
Afterward, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich came out and cleaned up a bit for Cruz, departing from his prepared remarks to say:
"I just want to point out what Ted Cruz said — you can vote to uphold the Constitution — there is only one candidate who will uphold the Constitution. So to paraphrase Sen. Cruz, if want to protect the Constitution, the only possible candidate is the Trump-Pence ticket."
Meanwhile Heidi Cruz, Ted's wife, got a police escort off the convention floor after the speech, sources said.
"It just started to get rowdy and crowded and they helped her get off the floor," a source close to the Cruz camp told NBC News. "Everything's fine."
Just after 11 p.m. ET, as Trump was leaving the arena, reporters shouted questions about the Cruz speech at him and he simply replied "I loved it!"
About half an hour later Trump put out another statement on Twitter, saying, "Wow, Ted Cruz got booed off the stage, didn't honor the pledge! I saw his speech two hours early but let him speak anyway. No big deal!"