On Rachel Maddow's Friday show, the host discussed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) and whether he bears any similarity to the infamous Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who instigated a communist witch hunt in the 1950s.

Cruz has been part of the GOP opposition to the nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel -- a Republican -- for Secretary of Defense. Some have questioned his stance on Israel, and in a piece for Politico, he wrote, "Hagel’s nomination has been publicly celebrated by the Iranian government — surely an occurrence without precedent for a nominee for secretary of Defense," though PolitiFact essentially debunked that characterization.

New Yorker writer Jane Mayer wrote that about two and a half years ago during a speech in Texas, Cruz said that while he was enrolled in Harvard Law School from 1992 to 1995, 12 professors were "Marxists."

When Maddow asked Mayer how people in the Texas crowd responded, Mayer said, "The thing you have to know about Ted Cruz is, he is a terrific speaker and he is a really powerful orator. And he had the audience up on their feet and cheering by the end of that speech. It ended with a quote from a letter from the Alamo where he was quoting, saying, 'Victory or death.'"

However, she went on to say that "What's acceptable in Texas may be beyond the pale of what's acceptable inside Congress" and that he has been criticized by fellow Republicans -- including Sens. Lindsay Graham (SC) and John McCain (AZ), who have also criticized Hagel -- for implying that Hagel may have taken money from North Korea without any facts to support that notion.

"When I was there [at the Texas speech], what so struck me was the specificity, the weird specificity. Twelve professors on the Harvard Law faculty who are communists and who want to see the communist overthrow of the U.S. government. It seemed so, on the face of it, improbable to me knowing Harvard Law School, which is basically churning out the men and women who are pillars of the United States' legal establishment, including many members of the United States Supreme Court."

The specificity made it seem like "there must be something in it," though "he never did name who they were."

After people began to make the McCarthy comparison, she asked a Cruz spokesperson if she or someone else could name any of those 12, but Mayer never heard back.

She did speak with one of Cruz's professors, a Republican, said he believed Cruz was "really inaccurate."

Watch the video, via MSNBC, below.

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