AUSTIN (CBS SF) — A Texas-based activist has turned an Internet joke about Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz into a financial windfall for an organization that helps keep abortion accessible for low-income women in southwest Texas.

What started as a farcical joke on Twitter dating back as far as 2013 about Cruz being the Zodiac Killer — the mysterious murderer who was confirmed to have killed five people during the late ’60s, but who claimed dozens more in letters written to newspapers into the following decade — has turned into a story garnering extensive national coverage.

Esquire.com ran a tongue-in-cheek piece about the viral joke, while the Washington Post even went so far as to debunk the rumor altogether, but the fundraising campaign Texas pro-choice advocate Tim Faust started by selling “Ted Cruz Was The Zodiac Killer” t-shirts has also captured plenty of attention online.

Focusing on Cruz’s pro-life record (particularly his support of the extensive abortion restrictions currently in place in Texas), Faust bought a design from an artist friend for $100 and set up the “Ted Cruz Zodiac Store” online to sell t-shirts and bumper stickers.

“Ted Cruz is a terrifying monster. You know who else was a monster? The Zodiac Killer, who claimed to have killed 37 people in the Bay Area,” reads text on the website offering the products.

So far, he has raised almost $30,000 for West Fund, an organization dedicated to helping low-income women in Texas have access to abortion after the state’s restrictive abortion bill HB 2 essentially closed half of the clinics in Texas.

In a recent interview with the Vice online channel Broadly, Faust said he wanted to do something meaningful rather than just capitalize financially on the viral aspect of the Ted Cruz-Zodiac Killer connection.

“That’s the only reason I’m doing something like this,” Faust told Broadly. “I’m not going to sell t-shirts of an online joke if I don’t think that, one, the joke is funny, and two, it goes to something important. Commercializing memes for personal profit is pretty gross.”

Faust, a onetime Bay Area resident who says he quit his “stupid tech job in San Francisco” and relocated to Texas three years ago, was inspired to move to the state by Wendy Davis’ filibuster against HB 2. He has worked for Planned Parenthood and is currently working in the healthcare data field.

 

 

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