(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 I guess at least we know who cruz' dad is...
It wasn't a joke. Why are conservatives always cracking jokes no one laughs at? If no one laughs, it isn't a joke.
So close Rafael, what you meant to say is he is a joke, not he told one.
Joke? Nice spin. Your true colors were shown. Independents like me are sick of the hate on both sides but especially the right side. Too much of it. All about themselves and not the country in whole.
How's this one:
Kennedy should've nuked Cuba, started WW3, and we wouldn't have even of heard of him or his dad at this point.
My joke isn't even remotely funny, but neither was his dad's "joke". It seems politicians, mostly the far right, when caught saying something that gets them a negative reaction, always try to cover it up with it being taken out of context, or say it was a joke. It wasn't a joke, or taken out of context. His dad believes this crap, or wants you to. He might have done better as a used car salesman.
Yeah – Cruz's dad is a racist, just like the Republican Party.
The father is a bogot....very clearly stated in his remarks. Like father, like son.
A joke? That's how you're going to spin this? How stupid do you think people are? Every time someone in your party gets caught saying something like this it's always a joke or what was said was taken out of context. I might have a shred of respect for you if you didn't try to hide your real beliefs, but you're too much of a coward for that.
Sen. Cruz, i listened to your father and i did not hear a joke. I heard a comment, and opinion. Well I have one too...you both can go back to Cuba!
If Cruz is a man of the cloth, why does he "preach" hatred. All he does is feed he flames of prejudice and intolerance. HYPOCRITE.
No wonder Ted has his head up his A**.
What slimes. Texas should secede and take the Cruzes with it. One can be president abd the other vice president. Perfect matches.
I saw the video and it certainly didn't look like a joke. He didn't smile, the audience didn't laugh. But yeah, it was a joke. On Cruz.
Joke ... I think not. How appropriate would it be if a close relative of President Obama were to suggest that Ted Cruz return to his place of birth in Canada (please we really don't want him back), or to his father's place of birth which is Cuba. But why stop there, maybe we can go back even farther and repatriate him back to Ireland, Italy, or even Spain. Rafael Cruz’s comment is probably what it appears to be on the surface; racist. Those citizens of Cuba who are of predominately African descent were unfairly treated by those of predominately Spanish descent under the old Batista regime. The Castro administration has corrected this inequity to some degree but yet many today in both Cuba, and more so those in the Cuban exile community, are still extremely racist against the non-European descended residents of the island.
Uh oh, Cruz will anger the base by calling this merely a "joke." He has to believe this is the truth, or he won't be conservative enough for them! lol
Cruz, the 24 billion dallar loser, should take his FAKE pastor father and go back to Cuba or Canada or somailia where the teaparty has the same values or lack of!!!!!
The best thing that can be said about Ted Cruz's father - is that he is not as bad as Rand Paul's grandfather.
As a joke, maybe we should send the senior Cruz back to Cuba; and the junior to Canada!
No Ted, your Dad didn't make a joke. He is a joke. And the apple doesn't fall far from that tree.
It was not a joke. Down here in Miami you hear comments like these all the time coming mostly from Cuban expats.
"Send Obama back to Kenya" is a joke? Not! Not in Canada or Cuba or the USA. A slur, an insult, sure, but it will never qualify as a joke! It wasn't taken out of context, because it's a statement that stands on its own! Also, Rafael Cruz is campaigning w/his son, so he obviously speaks for him! I dont care how Ted or his people spins it, it was a nasty comment w/no value except to be, well, nasty, typical of the T-bag set!!
How do you know when politics have completely removed all common sense from an entire political segment??? When a Cuban immigrant is telling people that an American president should be sent back to Kenya. Someone PLEASE tell me what's wrong with that picture. Oh I'm sorry it was a "joke". SMH, talk about insulting my intelligence I would rather him just be honest about it, I saw clip didn't look or sound like a "joke" to me. Sad, very sad this a another example of exactly why most minorities will NEVER support the Republican party as long as extremists like this guy and his father are a respected part of this party. Wake up Republicans there are a fair amount of minorities who agree with some or a lot your policies but as long as your party stands for this type of garbage they will never give their support. It's called the lesser of the two evils! A misguided or two policy I can live with but not being accepted because of the color of my skin or my religious beliefs is a deal breaker!!!!
Maybe we should send Cruz back to Cuba.......and see how long the old kook would last there.
A joke? Ill-advised? Out of context? Playing politics? Republicans, please nominate Cruz for POTUS 2016. Bachmann would be a great VP choice, too.
What? Ted Cruz insinuating that others are more politically motivated than actually outraged. What a joke
He should go back to Canada or Cuba or whatever foreign land he is from.