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December 6th, 2013
06:22 PM ET

Roundtable: Cruz attacked on social media for Mandela tribute

(CNN) - The "comments section" of social media sites is the bathroom wall of the internet, the hovel of haters and trolls.

As tributes and condolences from politicians roll out online, so do the vengeful replies.

Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is in that situation right now. On the news of Nelson Mandela's death Thursday, Cruz took to Facebook to express his respect and admiration of the anti-apartheid icon, writing, "Nelson Mandela will live in history as an inspiration for defenders of liberty around the globe."

More than 5,000 Facebook users "liked" that comment. But not all of Cruz's followers agreed.

"He was a murderer and a Communist. Why are you inspired by this, Ted?" wrote Facebook user Jenni Doyle.

"What about the rampant White Genocide BECAUSE of south africans' 'freedom'???????" wrote Facebook user Brent Romero.

Yet another, Facebook user Ulrich von Ravensburg wrote, "Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Mao, and FDR are also dead. They don't deserve a positive Eulogy either."

CNN reached out to Cruz's office, a spokesman pointed out people can find hateful stuff on the White House's website as well, one writing Mandela was a well-mannered demon in the flesh.

Cruz is certainly not responsible for what people write on his Facebook page.

“We shouldn't be paying attention to it,” said CNN political contributor and Republican strategist Ana Navarro. “Let's hold people on Facebook and Twitter accountable for what they say, not for what followers say. Also, keep in mind they're not all friends. Some may be enemies.”

That is, it is unclear of all of the hateful comments on Cruz’s page are conservatives, says Navarro.

“Maybe they are liberals pretending to be conservative. You don't know. On Twitter and Facebook? You don't know who that little egg is,” said Navarro.

“If they were liberals I think they would feel really badly about attacking Nelson Mandela for whatever political purpose,” said Center for American Progress president Neera Tanden.

“I'm not saying there are no haters on either side,” said Tanden, who applauds Cruz for what his “remarkable” comments on Mandela. “The larger issue versus these trolls versus non-trolls is really that it's not like Nelson Mandela wasn't controversial.”

“What is important now is he is embraced by both sides, and despite the extremism on the right, I think we should celebrate the fact that there are so many conservatives who are applauding his fight against apartheid now,” said Tanden.

“If there's anyone in modern or world history that deserves, sort of, to be put on a pedestal, it's Nelson Mandela. There are few historical figures anything like him,” said CNN political contributor and The New Yorker correspondent Ryan Lizza.

“But I think on both sides there is this danger of sort of writing out of history some of the controversial parts of his life that made him a great leader, made him able to end apartheid in that country. He took some very strong ideological stands that are controversial to this day,” said Lizza.

Conservatives were on the wrong side of history on a lot of these issues in the 1970s and
1980s, says Lizza, but “Ted Cruz doesn't have to worry about that.”

For more of our political panel, check out the video above.

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