The caucus’s executive committee met on Monday to discuss the choice, after some members threatened to resign, calling the selection too partisan and pointing to Cruz’s stance on net neutrality.
The caucus, chaired by Norman Powell, said in a statement that Cruz will receive the award along with another honoree who is a Democrat.
“As always, to balance the event, the caucus is also reaching out to a prominent Democrat,” the caucus said in a statement. “The caucus will also present to a nonpartisan figure who provides outstanding humanitarian service to the industry.”
The other awardees will be be announced shortly.
Cruz would join a list of past Republican honorees like then-Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who attend the event and usually make comments that pertain to the entertainment industry.
The caucus also has traditionally honored a Democrat at the same event to create a bipartisan balance. In 2014 the caucus honored Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, a Republican, and Rep. Brad Sherman, a Democrat. Past honorees on the Democratic side have included Henry Waxman, Ed Markey and Howard Berman.
Nevertheless, Cruz’s selection has created friction.
Comedy writer and producer Chris Bearde, who said he resigned from the caucus before the award was offered to Cruz, said that he was concerned that giving awards to politicians drifted from the caucus’s focus on supporting young directors, writers and producers. Although the caucus has balanced its selections with a Democrat and Republican, he questioned why Cruz was chosen.
“What in the world has Ted Cruz ever done for the creative community in Hollywood?” said Bearde.
“He’s dead against net neutrality, and most of us are for net neutrality. It is ludicrous. …Giving Ted Cruz an American Spirit Award is like making Ted Nugent the president of the NAACP.”
But writer-director Lionel Chetwynd, a longtime conservative who has helped organize honorees, said, “What is it about the senator from Texas being so toxic he cannot be allowed to speak to a Hollywood audience?”
After President Obama came out in favor of reclassifying the Internet as a telecommunications service, something that would give the FCC a solid legal footing to impose robust rules, Cruz tweeted, “Net Neutrality’ is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government.” Cruz, who sits on the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, was greeted by a flurry of criticism from net neutrality supporters, who said he didn’t understand the issue.
The issue has been hotly debated among members of the caucus, which was formed in 1974 to advocate for the rights of content creators.
A spokeswoman for Cruz said on Sunday, “Sen. Cruz is honored to be named one of the recipients of the bipartisan American Spirit Award this year and is looking forward to the ceremony this April.”