(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 should "go back to Canada, back to Cuba."
Ill-advised? Yes, of course now that the comment is getting negative coverage. A joke? No way. Out of context? In front of conservative and/or tea party audiences, it was perfectly in the context of what they wanted to hear. "Man Up" Ted! Stop backtracking and stop lying.
The apple certainly didn't fall very far from the tree.
Guess the apple didn't fall far from the tree...
Someone said how can an immigrant family like the cruz family tell someone they are not american and they need to go back where they came from. That is very arrogant thing to say and it just reinforces the idea that there is racial hatred for this president underneath all the political rhetoric. These people are not very inclusive but wish to take the country back to the days of the founders. And their idle is the constiitution and God is on their side.
A JOKE!? You, Teddy, are an idiot! Spare us the righteous indignation – own it, bub!
See that is the problem they can say it and know it isn't (or have someone say it for them) true, but know that some will believe it and they don't have to prove anything(they can't). It is a sad thing and proves that most politicians are just not the right people to lead the country. The News stations should be fined when they let lies go unchallenged and the political leaders should never be elected if they do this type of thing
"the apple doesn't fall far from the tree" Little Teddy learned his views from someone
Sen Cruz: Cuban father, born in Canada, American mother. Can run for President due to being a US citizen based on his mother's citizenship..
Pres Obama, Kenyan father, American mother, is qualified to be President because he's a US citizen based on his mother being American, whether he was born in Hawaii or not.
Thank you Sen. Cruz for exposing the fallacy of the birther movement. It may be the only significant contribution you make to the political debate.
guess the young man did not look like the stupid white jesus from the king james bible... little ole white jesus is just not correct. Jesus was a man of color!
Everything they do against Obama he comes out of it untouched. They have tried everything and nothing works. Obama told them if you dont like the way things are going then seek to change it by winning an election. Why is that so hard for those who "have the american people on their side" and "God on their side". They should win with a land slide victory.
It was not a Joke. Its the freaking birther in both of them. Ted and his communist Cuban father
Are we surprised? The apples never fall far from the tree. And considering Cruz' s healthcare is absolutely covered by the taxpayer (he's on his wife's insurance plan? Goldman Sachs received a ten billion dollar government bailout, so yeah, the taxpayers are paying for his AND his wife's healthcare), this family has absolutely no place trying to speak for Americans.
Well the nut doesn't fall far from the tree
I sure feel sorry for the Cruz family.
His father is a communist who helped Castro overthrow the legitimate govt. of Cuba and install one of the most violent, oppressive governments in the world. His father is an evil human being who supported Castro's murdering ways for decades and now wants everyone to look past that and think he's a "good ole boy". And Ted Cruz says he "idolizes" his father.
So if Obama has to go back to Kenya by the same logic Ted Cruz would have to go back to Cuba.
And from what I understand his father when in Cuba also fought for the communist party of Fidel Castro.
It wasn't a joke... It's what that Cuban Communist thinks.. and his kid is more than likely of the same opinion...
Like father like son. Run your mouth and then back pedal! A pastor? Really? Both of them are pathetic!
Amending my previous statement: with a name like Cruz, one COULD argue that Ted(the son,) is ineligible for the presidency. One COULD make the argument that Rafael Cruz(Ted's father,) wasn't born here. That, in turn would make Ted(the son,) ineligible for the presidency. Or does that rule only apply to president Obama and NOT Hispanic-American ultra-conservatives?
Rafael Cruz's remarks re Pres. Obama are blatantly racist and egregious.
Maybe Cruz's father should go back to his country of birth and stay. He needs to also remember that his son was born in Canada
If anybody is playing the politics of personal destruction is Ted Cruz and his role model and racist father Rafael Cruz; “like father like son”, to say to tea-party supporters that President Obama should go “back to Kenya" in not a joke; his comments are resists, I vote to send Rafael back to Cuba to work on Castro sugar Caine files, is exactly where he belongs, and his son back to Canada…
Ted is the one who must be joking.