(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.
Daddy Cruz is a fake Pastor for over 50 years living off donations as he was an illegal immigrant. Daddy Cruz was a loyal Communist Revolutionary soldier for Fidel Castro. Daddy Cruz had a family long before Senator Cruz was born. Senator Cruz never talks about the American Mother who raised him on his Communist Cuban Father. Daddy Cruz came to the US as an illegal immigrant and lived off of the US and when he did get Rafael's Mother pregnant she learned he had a family and was illegal in the US. Daddy Cruz finally got his citizenship with his son worked for President Bush. Now Daddy Cruz never paid a dime in Social Security but gets a check. Daddy Cruz announced his son was the anointed one Jesus just to assure more donations from people who believed the lie.
Cruz are Canadians. Ted Cruz was born in Canada. President Obama was born in the great land of USA. We should send these Cruz back to where they came from.
Give it up cruz. Yr an extremist and this country has had enough of the likes of you and your like minded cohorts. It might work n yr bubble but not out here n the real world!
This Nazi wasn't joking – he said 'Send all the ni–gers back to Africa'.
In an earlier speech, Cruz also said 'send all the Mexicans back to Mexico'.
Nazi's really shouldn't be allowed to live in this day and age, and hopefully one of these gun nuts will take care of these little Hitler wanna-be's.
really you smeared yourself cruz by your own hatefulness. we are not your cluless followers and for your dad to make such a so called joke just demonstrates how he isn't qualified to be a so called minster any more than you are qualified to be in the senate. Can't wait until your types are voted out of the offices you do not belong in.
What makes jokes funny for most people is the kernel of truth the joke contains for them. And this Kenya "joke" seems to resonate with tea party types very well. It's no wonder why.
A foreigner telling an American President to "go back anywhere" reeks of an ignorant racist of the worse kind.
His father should go back to cuba since he insist everyone go back to where their from
Well, now we know where Sen. Cruz gets his unusual behavioral traits from. Like father, like son. Both could use some professional help.
Hey Cruz, I guess that was a joke to you. Another joke for you to laugh on. Renounced your Canadian citizenship or move back to Canada. haha, very funny.
Cruz should go back to Canada, then. Or his father should go back to Cuba.
Like father like son, bigotry is their religion
Racism is not a joke, but both Cruzes are.
You're the joke, Ted. Since your Father obviously doesn't appreciate the gift of American citizenship...or perhaps only thinks that HIS family should be allowed to immigrate to this country...I'd suggest that all of YOU go back to Cuba.
Ted Cruz' father left Cuba in 1957,well before the revolution, so he and his family weren't fleeing Castro, but the Batista regime which preceded him. That makes his family not freedom -seekers, but opportunists, like most immigrants.
Let me see now, with a name like Cruz, was he(Ted, the father,) born here? If he WASN'T that would make his son ineligible for the presidency. Or does that rule not apply to ultra-conservatives?
Both dad and son have issues, "whackos". The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree.
Racism is the heart and soul of the tea party.
Your father spoke his mind and the "truth" in his heart. There is no joke there Ted. You can't even bone up to that...and you want to be President? Seriously...run...guaranteed Democratic victory even if we run Joe Biden (which we would never do).
I do not consider being a pastor a respectable position. Time to leave the Stone Age behind, and the gods of Man with it.
The funniest part of the joke is, he's saying Obama isn't legally allowed to be president because he was born in Kenya. And that's (mildly) debatable. His son was in fact, born in Canada, moved to Cuba, and then escaped to move to Texas. Even his second country of choice wasn't America!! And this guy feels he's qualified to run for Presidency of the United States! Yea – him and Arnold Schwartznagger both!!
Obuma n his wife were wed n baptised there childeran by there pastor who hates n dams America Mrs obuma said she hated America till Berry became Pres.yet thay are millonairs n spend spend spend our $$$ like water.Berry put in writing he is not U.S.cit.when geting $$$ for school was that da truth? if not its a crime.so eather or hes just another crime theff eletist.Dem.Rep.dont matter.thay all suck US dry.
Cruz should "go back to Canada, back to Cuba!"
Send that old ass wipe back to Cuba... Ohhh, that was a joke. Don't take it out of context.
I am absolutely shocked by Cruz Sr's comments...yawn...