(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.
How can saying "he should go back to Kenya" about a black man be taken out of context?
Like Father, like son – The US would be a lot better off without either of these REALLY foreign born immigrants.
Nobody here wants Ted Cruz back. Sorry.
All the best,
Sorry, but that was no joke at all and shame on Ted Cruz for thinking we're stupid enough to believe such a premise.
I've heard that very same comment circulated time and again and in every instance, it was intended purely as a racial slur.
It comes from the same southern dialect where conversations are held around the burn barrel by rednecks talking about "nigras."
Well perhaps a pastor and a good man should know that when he is speaking on the record, it shows poor judgement to make an unkind (as well as non-factual) remark about the President of the United States. I am a nobody, and even I try to think before I criticize our leader. It seems odd for a man born in Cuba, whose son was born in Canada, to suggest that it is Mr. Obama who is masquerading as an American. (I almost said passing for American, wouldn't that have been a faux pas!)
His father is an idiot and a BIGOT. The apple does not fall far from the tree!
Obama can't go back to Kenya ... they don't want him!!
Ted Cruz's father's comments are deplorable. I would be ashamed if my father ever said such racist comments.
He is a "Pastor"?? What would Jesus say?
Ted Cruz's ego doesn't allow him to get the fact that most Americans find him repugnant!
when you drag your crazy as a loon dad out to campaign for you, you might have to take some heat for the nutty things he says, certainly not a man with any integrity
Maybe when Republicans take a comment out of context and run with it, Cruz will speak out against them for using comments out of context for political purposes. and conducting politics of personal destruction. Yeah...right...hold your breath tea partiers...
Ahhhh, the old "it was really a joke" excuse .... riiiiiiiight!
This whole Kenya thing got started with Obama's book where in it stated that the author was born in Kenya. Everything points to him being born in Hawaii but as long as one parent is a natural citizen and Obama holds only one passport he's eligible. Nobody but Obama knows how many times he stated that he was born in Kenya for financial benefit such as the book or tuition.
The Cruz duo and their religious agenda is insane. Research it.
Research the Cruz agenda. The father and son both, are two bricks shy of a load.
The Cruz family should reflect on their own birthplaces and face facts they are no better than anyone else. Elder Cruz can go back to Cuba and the other one can reclaim his Canadian roots. They along with the TEA party are so full of hated and very much want to take over the country they will say anything. They do not deserve any opportunity to be in office because they do not care about this country.
These people are Cubans and Canadians, not Americans.
Ted Cruz and his dad rock! That was a funny joke.
A joke? His dad's comment wasn't a joke. It was racist, ignorant and cruel.
Only Democrats think the Tea Party will lose in the next election. News flash your own party is sucking it at the polls!
The liberals quickly forget that the very first person to question the birthplace of Obama is none other than Hillary Clinton. Due to the publishing of Obama's promotional booklet stating that he was born in Kenya when he was running for the Harvard Law Review presidency and the millions of dollars he has spent to hide his college records it is small wonder that so many millions of people question his birthplace. The final written copy of his "birth certificate" also has several questionable facts on it,hence adding to the questionability of his birthplace.
This is why we need to seal the border, and ship them back to Mexico
Can you imagine if Barry Soetoro's biological father was still alive the daily battle he would have over his dad's daily filthy communist orations? B.O. is lucky that his upline is dead and gone, both mom and dad. It's doubtful he would have been elected in 2008 were either or both still alive and talking to the press.
He's a "pastor"? Yet he spread hate?
And we wonder why the child has no respect for this country.....The family needs to move back to there own country