(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.
Cruz, enough back peddling please. Flipping a joke like 'back to Kenya' does not demonstrate kindness or ntegrity in any way.
Cruz is a verifiable Cuban refugee. How about sending him back to his home country?
That quote we hear coming over and over from one side of the Republican Party. It is not a joke. Deep down is pure racism. We know what it means. Nobody keep saying to Senator Ted Cruz go back to Cuba. That kind of joke will pop up in every campaign Ted Cruz is involve from now on..Good luck..Your dad buried you and your extremism for good.
"We're not racists. We just want the racists to vote for us."
Let's be honest Obama hasn't exactly help America. He has split this nation in two with a health care bill that is not only useless but I.predict will worsen our economic problems. Props to Cruz's dad for saying the truth. The only reason he is under fire is because he had the strength to say what the majority of Americans feel.
Ted Cruz is a joke.
Ha! Cruz, a Cuban emmigrant, telling Obama, who was born in Hawaii, U.S.A., to go back to Kenya. That takes the cake. All these right-wing-nuts are crazies. LIke father, like son; they are hypocrites and liars and a blight upon the country. They are like smears of excrement upon the land. I have nothing against Cuban emmigrants, but we could do without this one.
The apple does not roll far from the tree. I think the same concept applies to nuts....
Need to send his dad back to Cuba and him back to Canada...........
Man these tea party types REALLY need to get out of the comedy business.
A man of deep integrity and a pastor making a joke about someone's ethnicity? Yeah, that sounds about right.
And Ted Cruz was born where? Oh yeah . . . Canada. Send him back
sorry, it was no joke. it came from his dark soul and a pastor at that.
And Cuban-Canadian Ted and his looooser dad can go back to freakin Cuba.
Ted Cruz's fatherbis right.
Sorry, Senator, it was not a joke. It was a hate-filled insult to the president of a free country, twice elected by the majority of its people. In any other country, he would have been deported. He is new citizen with no respect for the will of the people. There are civilized ways to conduct political discourse, you both need to find them. Somewhere in your upbringing, common decency and courtesy went missing.
"These selective quotes, taken out of context"
How exactly is a statement saying go back to Kenya out of context?
It's obvious that Ted's dad is a racist and probably raised him the same way.
Does Ted Cruze's will go beck to country where his parents and grand parents came from !!
At the time Republican politicians all over the South were telling their voters the same thing. They were not in joking mode. The statement that President Obama was a Muslim born in Kenya was used by Republicans wherever they thought rural voters would believe them and scorn the President. No, Teddy, we do not believe your dad was joking. He was engaging in Republican "dirty tricks."
sorry, but people of intregity, let alone "deep" integrity don't make "jokes" like this. This is the USA not Cuba – you're the one behind the smear tatics – of the USA President. Go back to Cuba and practice your communism there.
It's no so much the joke that offends me. It's that Cruz's father is supposed to be a Pastor and a servant of Christ....but he actively campaigns against programs like Obamacare that would serve to help the needy and the poor of this country.
Apology not accepted. I'm tired of that kind of political diatribe. Startle me by saying something gracious and intelligent.
I inherited some nice cuff links and a watch from my dad. Looks like Ted Cruz inherited a white sheet and a pointy hood.
If someone insulted his father and told him to go back to Cuba, he would come unglued. You people in Texas should be ashamed you voted him into office
Joke or no joke....there is no room in politics or within the general public to make such wise cracks. They are not funny, they are not jokes, and should have no place in our rhetoric ......especially from pastors who should know better. One just needs to look at the tape and see the applause he got....from folks who believed every word he says.
Also if it was just a joke then I also assume the comment about the President being a socialist is also a joke.