Ted Cruz was well into his keynote speech before a Christian group Wednesday night when he drew boos as he started to talk about the Jewish cause.
The U.S. senator from Texas then went off script to scold the booers, and after making several more comments in defense of Jews and Israel, drawing more heckling, walked off the stage.
In his address during a gala dinner of the “In Defense of Christians” (IDC) organization, the Tea Party Republican said: “Christians have no greater ally than Israel.”
That drew boos from some in the crowd, prompting Cruz to denounce it as bigotry and hate.
He said to the audience: "Those who hate Israel hate America," and "Those who hate Jews hate Christians."
Cruz said in a statement that he had no choice but to walk off the stage.
IDC released a statement too, saying in part: "A few politically motivated opportunists chose to divide a room that for more than 48 hours sought unity in opposing the shared threat of genocide, faced not only by our Christian brothers and sisters, but our Jewish brothers and sisters and people of all other faiths and all people of good will.
"Tonight’s injection of politics when the focus should have been on unity and faith, momentarily played into the hands of a few who do not adhere to IDC’s principles. They were made no longer welcome," it added.
Ted Cruz, mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2016, called anti-Semitism an evil that was evident at the dinner. He said he told members of the audience that if they won't stand with Israel and the Jewish people, then he will not stand with them.
The Texas senator, 43, is part Cuban, part Italian and part Irish. He comes from a Roman Catholic family but was converted by his parents to Southern Baptism at a young age.
"In Defense of Christians" is a group that focuses on persecuted Christian and minority communities in the Middle East. Cruz was speaking to them at their summit in Washington D.C.
A video of the event shows Cruz saying before he left the stage: “I will say this: I’m saddened to see that some here, not everyone, are so consumed with hate.”
That led to more booing and some yelling from members of the audience, Politico reported.
Cruz told some media outlets that he had planned to speak about how the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and other terrorist groups were a threat to Jews and Christians.
“I told the attendees that those who hate Israel also hate America,” he said, according to Politico. “That those who hate Jews also hate Christians. And that anyone who hates Israel and the Jewish people is not following the teachings of Christ. These statements were met with angry boos.”
“Anti-Semitism is a corrosive evil, and it reared its ugly head tonight,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.