(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.
In a follow-up to this story…Cruz said sure my dad made a joke then media created this drama
But after 17 TRILLION in debt & Communist Obamacare…biggest joke in the world…Obama !!!
A pastor, eh? There's Christian love and acceptance for ya – LOL
What a liar. That was no joke. They should both go back to Cuba if anyone is going back.
Wow, a cuban is asking an American to go to another country. Bravo!
dumb and dumber - where the genes come from
and don't send him back to Canada - they don't want him!
It is unacceptable to any standards.
Cruz isn't even FROM Texas. His father is from Cuba, and Cruz himself was from Calgary Alberta. So they should be the ones to leave lol.
Come back here to Canada Cruz where you belong, so we can strap boulders to your feet and drop you in Lake Ontario.
lol Cruz isn't even from Texas. His father is from Cuba and he himself is from Calgary, Alberta. Both of them should go back where they came from.
Why anyone would listen to or care about what a Right Wing Religious Nut with a closed mind says is beyond me. Yet another reason Ted Cruz will be a one-term politico. Like Father, Like Son.
Should the Cruz family go back to Mexico? Spain? South America?
Both father and son Cruz are Baptista-types, not democracy-leaning, but wanting the spoils of a dictatorship, which far-right politicians often become. With them, seems like it was just a small step. Let THEM go back to Cuba, Canada, or somewhere other than the U.S. We don't need their type.
It was no joke.
His father was serious when he made that statement.
I'm sure that is exactly how he and his sorry excuse for a son really feel.
A pastor who preaches bigotry and hate...and you wonder why the atheist movement is on the rise.
""I love my father," said Cruz. "He is a pastor. He is a man of deep integrity. And he made a joke."
You probably do love your father, but he is anything BUT a man of deep integrity. He's a religious hypocrite and a bigot.
What is it with Republicans and the insane?
Kenya is so upset over Obama failing America, that they are now accusing Obama of being born in America now.
there's your integrity for ya, "selective quotes", "taken out of context", "mischaracterize the substance" – the man said it then doesn't have the onions to stand up when he's called out – that's all you need to know.
Cruz family is a bunch of what we call "old whites". White people who are old enough to remember ( 45 + ) when blacks were treated like less than nothing. Whites that age or older simply cant be trusted, they come from a different world, different mindset.
He's a pastor? Well that explains everything.
I'm not a fan of Ted Cruz and disagree with him most of the time, but on this point I do agree with him. Ugly smear has no place in politics or anywhere else.
Tea Party Rules:
1. Open Mouth
2. Insert Koch
He's a pastor? Well that explains everything...
Right. So an immigrant comes to this country and makes a "joke" about sending a natural born citizen back to Africa and it's the people who are outraged that are somehow in the wrong for making this political. What a bunch of hypocrites these foreigners are.
saw the word "pastor" and the comment no longer surprised me - the church is rife with the"us vs. them" mentality.
This pastor needs to stick with Jesus. And leave politics to his son.