(CNN) – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is accusing critics of smear tactics after they attacked his father for saying President Obama should go "back to Chicago, back to Kenya" at an event last year.
Even as he dismissed his father’s comments as a “joke” and ill-advised, he said critics were motivated as much by politics as by genuine outrage.
Speaking to CNN affiliate WFAA on Friday, the first-term Republican senator from Texas said, "sadly, those who are trying to play the politics of personal destruction are trying to smear him and use that to attack me. That's a shame."
"I love my father," said Cruz. "He is a pastor. He is a man of deep integrity. And he made a joke."
Cruz's father, Rafael Cruz, is an influential figure in his own right and is known for his outspoken conservative positions. He has attracted a following among tea party activists and social conservatives, and he has campaigned alongside his son on many occasions.
The controversial remarks were captured in a video first posted on the left-leaning news website Mother Jones on Thursday. The website posted that video, along with several other videos of Rafael Cruz addressing conservative groups, and the comments quickly circulated online, drawing criticism from liberals.
Sen. Cruz's statement to WFAA marks his strongest reaction so far to his father's critics.
A spokeswoman for the senator previously declined to offer comment about the elder Cruz's statements, instead referring CNN to a statement that Cruz Communications Director Sean Rushton gave to Mother Jones.
"These selective quotes, taken out of context, mischaracterize the substance of Pastor Cruz's message. Like many Americans, he feels America is on the wrong track," Rushton said in the statement, adding, "Pastor Cruz does not speak for the Senator."
Rafael Cruz's remarks are reminiscent of the so-called birther movement, led by influential figures such as Donald Trump, who have suggested that Obama was not born in the United States and is therefore ineligible to be president.
Obama responded to those critics in 2011 by releasing his long-form birth certificate, which shows that he was born in Hawaii.
You AND your father are the joke. You used the birther rant to help your campaign among Texas Teajadists and a year later you claim it's a joke. The irony is that your supporters are so ignorant that they don't know you are more suspect as a foreigner than Obama since he was born in Hawaii. And where were you born? And when did your father become an American citizen? We're waiting for 2016.
I constantly complain about the extremism of the Baby Boomer generation and rightly so, they have slowed our countries growth with there extremism and lake of technology education. But We Generation Xer's must take full responsibility for Ted Cruz. He is of our generation. The good thing is that he represents a very small portion of my generation. For the most part my generation our all centralist thanks to our parents. Our generation is having a hard time getting into national politics because the baby boomers are living longer. But we have taken over at the state level thankfully. Why do you think Gay Marriage, Legalizing drugs and Green Energy are moving so quickly thru the states. Its because we aren't extremists like out parents. Thankfully the Ted Cruz's of the world are a very small percentage of our generation. I have finally given up hope that the baby boomer generation with ever compromise, so the sooner you pass on the better for out great country. History will remember your generation with examples of what not to do in a civilized society.
Fancy Pants Pee Wee Herman may have fooled Texans and with his Lies and made it to the Senate. But he will Never Never Never become President of the United States. So let Republican's waste Billions of Dollars on that waste of Air. I also believe the next Republican Government Shut Down will be the last time Republican's ever hurt this country again. Congress should be ashamed working 126 days a year doing nothing. With 112 days of work scheduled next year I think we could do without them at all.
If he's a Republican, he has no integrity and is a joke. What he said was no joke. He's obviously the one that taught son his hateful, anti-American creed. I don't understand how a party that "was freedom" keeps attracting the most hateful religious people.
It was a racist comment from a Christian hypocrite. As a pastor this man is yet more evidence Christianity is a fraud, but he offers some insight into why Ted Cruz is a pathological liar.
I'm sick and tired of Obama's detractors insulting the American people's intelligence with their faux outrage at the very suggestion race influences their thinking. If Obama's father had been from Ireland there's no way people would make comments about sending him "back to Ireland."
These people are an embarrassment to the Republican party and the country as a whole.
Ted Cruz said ..."...use that to attack me. That's a shame." What is shame is that Ted agrees with his father, a Pastor not born in the USA, wants to send the President, who was born in the USA, "back" to Kenya. How did they come up with this "back?" And why would Ted find shame in his critics and not in his father's comment? This is a textbook case of how the extremist mind works.
Like father, like son. Unthinking, armed with poor facts, sustained by those of low intelligence.
Ted Cruz has shown himself to be a traitor to the USA, willing to see its destruction just to play his political games. Daddy Cruz has shown himself to be an Ayatollah wannabee. Both should be deported back to Cuba.
It was no joke. It was meant a serious comment to feed into the racial hatred of Cruz's minions. Thank God he will never be president.
IIt's quite sad and pathetic anyone thinks you can say whatever you want as long as it's a joke. I expect Ted was as nasty growing up in grade school as he is now if that's what he learned from his parents.
Obama has more integrity than a million Cruz's....it's the first time I'm actually proud of my country....compared to Bush/Darth Vader Cheney, Richard Nixon, and all the other fools of the Tea Party who hide behind their guns becasue they lack courage and compassion..... I'm so glad I don't drink a cup of hate every morning.
To those people who would like to send Ted back to Canada, no thank you! We have wacky politicians of our own, though none in his league yet!
Steve- we need to rebuild this country like the days of President FDR.
Character assassination is all that Republicans are really good at. That and whining about the tax burdens of the rich.
A pastor does not say things like that. I am a registered Republican but will not vote republican again. They have turned into a bunch of scary people without integrity.The tea party people that I know do not want big government, do not want to help the poor and want all the money in the hands of the rich and powerful. They do this all in the name of Christian values.Maybe Cruz senior should remember where he came from,
The man meant every word of it. I think he should be sent back to communist Cuba and Ted sent back to Canada...or Cuba.
I really don't think this was a joke in the least. It seems to have been spoken from the heart and is further proof of the contempt that the Cruz family has for America. And this guy is supposedly a minister? We'd all love to know who, precisely, ordained Cruz, Sr. and what their qualifications are for ordaining ministers. Where's his Church? Where's his "flock"? Guess what – neither exists. The IRS should look into the tax exempt status of Cruz, Sr. This whole deal smacks of a scam. The U.S. Citizenship of Cruz, Sr. should be revoked because of his seditious statements. As should that of Cruz, Jr.
I wish we could deport both of them back to their respective birthplaces.
They are both narrow-minder, opinionated tea baggers and we shouldn't expect appropriate behavior from either of them. My father was a fundamental minister and I believe those of his ilk believe they have the
god-given right to say whatever they think and their opinions are correct and ordained of God. Very dangerous belief system.
Mother Jones. Nothing but integrity.
Cubans are not friendly towards African ethnic people. How dod i know this? They worked with me.
these men do not represent spiritual people,Americans ,Canadians or Cubans. however they and their tea party members and religious bigots maybe can form their own nation ruled by the old rich and white....
So a Cuban Pastor from Canada (who's Canadian/Cuban son shut down the Government, costing 24 Billion as an act of "patriotism") tells our US born sitting President to go back to Kenya...
And the NeoConTeaPubs wonder why they cant win an un-gerrymandered election...
Ted, you'll get no free passes. That was not a joke. It was a tasteless smear people of your ilk, and your father's, have used one too many times. If you send your father out as your surrogate campaigner, expect backlash when he makes wildly ignorant and racist remarks. Ann Coulter isn't helping you either. What if people stooped as low and suggested we should deport the two of you back to your countries of birth, as opposed to the country where you both reside and have been accepted by, the place the President was actually born? Stop the sniveling.
Yeah. Racists are always "kidding".