(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.
Well, that explains what's wrong with Teddy. Father's a fanatic, raised his son to be a fanatic. Fanatics often confuse fanaticism with integrity.
This passage says all there is to be said about the GOP these days. "Selective quotes?" Every tom, Dick and Harry can see the speech for themselves and realize that the quotes are neither selective nor funny. Perhaps Pastor Cruz might want to take a look at his own birth certificate before going after someone who actually belongs here.
A person of "deep integrity" would not have made a personal attack over political differences.
They are both jerks.
Send one back to Cuba and the other to Canada. Problem solved.
Neither one of them is worthy of any media attention. Their political positions are so far off the right end of the chart that it's got to be an embarrassment to the Republican party.
Yeah, sounds like a real religious guy.
The only 'joke' flying around is the Cruz Duo.
Just like Sharpton & Jackson. They say lots of things. Sharpton even has 2 deaths credited to his name. So let's not get all worked up over Cruz.
The worst joke Pastor Cruz ever made was Ted Cruz. If he's going to apologize for anything, he should apologize for that!
Why doesnt Ted Cruz go "back to Texas, back to Canada" – WHERE HE WAS BORN! WHERE ARE ALL THOSE "BIRTHERS" NOW?
Bigotism and racism hiding under religious KKK!!!!!!
Ted Cruz is an idiot and so is his father. That wasn't a joke. The Republican need to get the cancerous tea party out of their party as soon as possible. Then they may have respectability again.
The only platform these tea party people have is the racist platform for those who appose the president for being black.
According to Cruz, people shouldn't criticize his father for this, because that would be motivated by politics not genuine outrage. However, I do find it outrageous that a couple of immigrants (Cruz and his Father) would even make such a comment about a man who was born in the United States. I'd like to see their green cards.
I am still trying to understand how a man who is from Cuba can even point a finger at our President who is from Hawaii USA! Cruz Sr was not joking and Teddy should realize that and stop trying to make light of an ignorant statement that was NOT taken out of context. Cruz Sr was spewing tea party rhetoric throughout the whole speech. And he meant every word he said. No joke.
I'm surprised that the Cruzes would bring up the birther movement since neither were born here, and Raphael Cruz fought with Castro. You can't get more commie than that.
What people don't know is that "Pastor" Cruz was a fervent supporter of the Cuban apartheid system before leaving Cuba, so it his comments do not surprise me.
WHAT ??? Teddy says his daddy made a joke???? Well he did, he created Teddy !!!!!
Does anyone see the irony of an immigrant from Cuba accusing a native born American of coming from a foreign country?
Cruz... your father is obviously racist trash!
How bout that a cuban telling an american to go back to africa and this idiot suppose to be a pastor. Wonder what kind of people he preach to they can't be of god if the pastor talk like that.
This is not a 'joke', it's what most Republicans believe. That fact that even Republican politicians can't say it out loud just shows what hypocrites they are. Why not just be openly racist? They're not fooling anybody anyway.
Love reading all these Cruz haters, who only hate him because he wants to shut down the free money party. Half this country is screwed when bankruptcy shuts down the free money party, then who will you blame?
I'll give you people in the Teapotty something you so dearly love; a conspiracy theory. Ted Cruz was accused of "not having an exit strategy" in his faux filibuster, and of being a "Fraud". That analysis is incorrect and incomplete. He was doing exactly what he was sent here to do. Waste time in the hopes of destroying the US economy. And with the help of some of the more stupid Teapotty sheep, he almost accomplished that goal. Everything he's done since taking office has been for one purpose only, to destroy the US Government. Ted Cruz IS "The Manchurian Candidate".