Hollywood actor Ron Perlman has challenged the Texas Republican senator Ted Cruz to a wrestling match, offering to donate $50,000 to Black Lives Matter to mark the occasion.
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Perlman, the star of Hellboy, The Name of the Rose, Sons of Anarchy and other hits, made the offer early on Monday morning, as part of what started as an unlikely online spat with the Republican Florida congressman Matt Gaetz.
Perlman and Gaetz were arguing about US Soccer’s George Floyd-protest-inspired decision to repeal a rule requiring its teams to stand for the national anthem, which earned Gaetz’s ire and subsequently that of Donald Trump.
Calling Gaetz “a guy who wins a totally gerrymandered district with daddy’s money”, Perlman said on Twitter: “I only PLAY scumbags and grifters. You’re the real deal!”
Told by Gaetz to “leave the tough guy comments for those of us who face the voters”, Perlman tweeted a picture of the Ohio congressman Jim Jordan and said: “You’re lucky for this guy Matt. If it weren’t for him you’d be the ugliest politician walking.”
Jordan, a senior figure in the hard-right House Freedom Caucus and prominent Trump defender, was formerly a wrestling coach at Ohio State. He has come under significant pressure over a scandal involving a doctor who sexually abused student wrestlers. Jordan has been accused of having done nothing to report the abuse and attempting to cover it up. He denies misconduct.
Perlman’s jibe at Jordan prompted Cruz to wade in, writing: “Listen Hellboy. You talk good game when you’ve got Hollywood makeup and stuntmen. But I’ll bet $10k – to the nonpolitical charity of your choice – that you couldn’t last five minutes in the wrestling ring with Jim Jordan without getting pinned. You up for it? Or does your publicist say too risky?”
Perlman, 70, was indeed up for it, writing: “Wait, is this THEE Ted Cruz? Holy shit man! Is this the same guy let little Donnie call his wife a dog and his father an assassin and now kisses his ass? Yo, can I get your autograph man?”
That was a reference to Trump’s brutal attacks on Cruz and his family during the 2016 Republican primary; personal attacks the senator has seemingly set aside as he has become one of the president’s fiercest supporters.
Perlman continued: “I tell you what Teddy boy, since mentioning Jim Jordan and wrestling is … problematic, why don’t we say fuck him and just make it you and me. I’ll give 50k to Black Lives Matter and you can keep all the taxpayer money you were thinking of spending.”
Cruz, 49, replied: “I get it, you’re rich. But, apparently, soft. You sure seem scared to wrestle Jordan (whom you keep insulting). Can’t take the heat? Need to get a manicure?”
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Commenting on the exchange, the former Texas Tribune editor Emily Ramshaw wrote: “Squint and imagine if women ran everything.”
The New York Times reporter Maggie Astor added: “God, men are exhausting.”
And there, for the moment and with the dignity of the US Congress dragged further through the Washington mud, the matter rested.
Perlman may, however, have reason for caution – or at least proper preparation – should such a bout come to pass.
Cruz has form in sports-based charity challenges with political opponents. In June 2018 he challenged the comedian and late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel to a game of one-on-one basketball, after Kimmel said he looked “like a blobfish”.
Cruz won, but the real beneficiaries were the Texas children’s hospital and Generation One, a Houston education non-profit, which shared more than $80,000.