Ted Cruz & the Case of the Missing Condom Machines

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In case you weren’t aware, on Monday night in Iowa, Ted Cruz made what might be the best pivot of the Republican primary so far when he decided to say that the GOP is not trying to take away birth control from women, that access to contraception is “an utterly made-up, nonsense issue.” Apparently, Cruz was no longer interested in saying that the man who killed three people in Colorado Springs is a “trangendered leftist activist,” so he decided to get back to basics and attack Planned Parenthood.

As Andrea Greer explained in her post earlier today, Cruz is a master at changing the subject with a rhetorical flourish:

The junior senator from Texas has shown a fondness for deploying the rhetorical technique of redirecting the conversation with a loaded question or outrageous statement, which he joked about at the CPAC gathering earlier this year.

So what exactly did he say?

Last I checked, we don’t have a rubber shortage in America. Look, when I was in college, we had a machine in the bathroom, you put 50 cents in and voila.


As you can imagine, “rubber shortage” gets a pretty good laugh in a room full of Iowa evangelicals. But you know where it kills? Twitter, cable news and Facebook. Cruz’s claim that there’s “no war on women” started the day off for the Texas Tribune and is subject of a 1500-word smackdown published this afternoon by the Texas Observer’s Andrea Grimes. (Interestingly, the Trib used a direct quotation of  the “rubber shortage” comment for the headline on the home page but went with a more moderate tone on the story itself. Apparently, sex sells, even on the home page of the Texas Tribune.)

Clearly, the things to react to here are Cruz’s assault on Planned Parenthood, his continued attempt to distance himself from Robert Dear’s deadly attack and the revisionist history he’s trying to spin about the GOP and birth control.

But I couldn’t get past the condoms.

According to Ted Cruz, there were vending machines full of condoms in the bathrooms at Princeton University when he was an undergrad.

That’s amazing. And completely preposterous to anyone who went to Princeton in the 1980s. Which I did.

So I did what any Princeton-educated writer would do: I got on Facebook and asked my friends if any of them remembered condom vending machines in the bathrooms. I made sure to include a couple of friends who graduated in the 1990s, in case there was a sudden installation of vending machines after my husband graduated in 1989. The answer was unanimous: there were no condom vending machines in the bathrooms at Princeton that any of us could recall. (One friend did remind me that some women’s bathrooms still had urinals in them in 1985, so there’s that.)

As it turns out, there are no condom vending machines in bathrooms at Princeton today.

While I love and respect my college friends, I thought it might be worth asking Princeton about the condom vending machine situation. Fortunately, the Department of Communications returned my call after receiving a voice mail I ended by saying, “I know this sounds like a prank call, but I am genuinely trying to find an answer to this question.” After a couple of hours of investigation, I received the following email from Media Communications Specialist Min Pullan of the Department of Communications at Princeton University:

Lize,
To get back to your question about the condom vending machines.  There are no condom vending machines in campus bathrooms.  We cannot verify whether there were any more than 15 years ago as the information is not available.
I hope this helps.
It does. According to the university, there are no condom vending machines in Princeton University bathrooms today and there haven’t been for the last 15 years. Given what I know about Princeton, I have a very hard time imagining that there was a brief period when they were installed (after June 1989, at the earliest) and then removed by 2000 with no record or memory of that happening.
In other words, Princeton University is suffering a serious rubber shortage.
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