(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's dad is a "preacher" who has made a fortune off of scamming the simple minded.... Seems like Ted has learned a lot from dear old dad.
Remember when Mel Gibson said his father's remarks didn't reflect on his personal views? Nobody bought it at that time, either.
I expect that nobody except the media is outraged over this comment. However, what I find interesting is that his father would reference Kenya when Ted Cruz himself was born in Canada.
Should have been a comedian
What a mean comment coming from a pastor. A pastor shouldn't be saying those things, and they shouldn't be politically speaking unless they want us to tax them. Tax evader........
Crus himself is the biggest joke. A Republican anarchist (the two terms are nearly identical now) is not what thisi country needs – now or ever.
Funny, Ha – ha. See I'm laughing – Ha – ha.
Deport this whole ridiculous Cuban-Canadian family! Also, Pastor Cruz is clearly not Ted's Dad.
Wow, Cruz is just such a poor little victim. His dad says something nasty and false, and Cruz cries about how people are using it against him. Here's a hint: if you don't want people to use your father's nasty statements against you, maybe he should stop making those nasty statements.
And regarding "going back to Kenya" ... maybe Cruz & Dad could see how that's an extremely hypocritical thing to say, since they could just as easily (and with more cause in his Dad's case) be told to go back to Cuba. But how about we all stop being so petty and stick to actual issues, rather than picking on someone based on ethnicity?
Sen Cruz, you need to make up your mind. You conveniently associate yourself with your dad when you score political points and distance yourself from him when it hurts you politically. You have all these shady financial investments going on that you want to sweep under the rug. And then you spend hours in front of free TV pretending to care about America. Isn't is obvious that you're trying to fool most of your gullible GOP base?
Well known fact: the Cruz's should go back to Mexico or Cuba, or whatever. Racism is played out!
if that's a joke it's not funny, I saw people applauding but not laughing
A joke, really? One lie is always followed by others. Man up and call it what it is sir – racism by proxy.
Their is an ugly malignant core within the Republican party as seen by continued efforts to "Africanize/Kenyanize and Muslimnize our President. Dehumanize people and make them the "Other" are well known tactics of racists. The truth be told, if you are a racist you do not vote Democratic, you vote Republican. An inconvenient truth for those on the right. What a shameful commentary.
The Tea Party is absolutely clueless. Telling a black American to go back to Africa is just a harmless joke?
Those who believe it was a joke are as sick as this so called Pastor. We have a major problem in this country, hatred and racism. We better wake up.
so, if you are at an anti-obama rally and throw out a racist anti-obama statement, it's an "ill-advised joke?" his statement was not taken out of context. you can watch, hear, or read the entire speech. he meant what he said. the only joke here is ted cruz and his "christian" minister father...........'.
The kind of racist "joke" the "pastor" made doesn't come from a man of "faith and integrity."
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
Just listen to the massive loads of manure that come out of Cruz's father's mouth. The Kenya remark is civilized compared to the rest of the tripe and frankly un-American drivel the "pastor" spews.
Reminds me of Mel Gibson a few years back trying to distance himself from his father who is a Holocaust denier ...
He was not laughing when or after he said it, the spin does not work.
Cruz will have to censor his dad,that is the way CNN handles a problem.
It is quite interesting how people, who speak their truth - their true feelings, often back up and use the "it was a joke" excuse to defend themselves or others. While it might have been a joke - many a truth is spoken in jest and that truth is now out for anyone to read Senator.
Telling Obama to go back to Kenya is not a joke any more than telling Cruz to go back to Mexico, or wherever his people came from. It is a nasty, dismissive sort of comment and sadly it is exactly what one expects from religious people. Religion fools people into believing that their prejudices are actually principles. When you think God is on your side you will stoop to any level to "win" and that is exactly what this "joke" exposes about Pastor Cruz.
These pastors come and go like flies on something rotten. At the end they all get rich, very rich. They sell faith like the old medicine man in the old West. Pastor Cruz must be reading a bible unknown to me.