(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.
Maybe we should send the Cruz family back to Cuba. Ha ha, just kidding. O, that wasn't funny?
Right wingnuts love it when Cubans say terrible things about the president. It shows the domestic terrorist side of the GOP.
I have a pretty good sense of humor and I can usually tell when someone is telling a joke. This sounded more like a deep held belief to me. I think that makes Mr Cruz Senior a religious bigot and now makes Mr Cruz Junior a liar.
Considering Cruz was born in Canada and his dad immgrated from Cuba, perhaps it would be best for both of them shut up about obama's origins – regardless if he's hawaiian, kenyan etc...
Would he have the freedom to spew this kind of crap if he never left Cuba? Like son like father.
It doesn't sound like a "joke" to me; it sounds like a "dig".
Let's not forget that the only branch of the KKK in Latin America, was opened in Cuba before Fidel came and kicked them out of the island. White Cubans (misnomer) do not consider themselves part of Latin America, they have extreme racial views and they are very arrogant compared to most hard working cubans.
I was surprised to see a democrat from Texas.
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. I'm begging the US – give Texas back!
Wow, amazing that this anti American POS can stand there and claim this was a joke. How can someone disparage his father like this? He would never do such a thing! And yet, that's exactly how Cruz operates. Hypocrisy knows no bounds. Politicians don't know when to shut up and sit down. This guy in particular. Hey, MR REPUBLICAN, go hate on some more women, children and the unemployed.
Why was it a joke?.. I agreed with his father, in fact, obama needs to be sent back & never allowed back in the country. my hat is off to that gentleman.
Can they not say "crude" or "ignorant" ? No , because it was intentional ... his term "ill-ADVISED" gives you a hint. Another attempt to rally the bigots before some OTHER republican rallies the bigots against THEM. AH Pastor and Son ,remember the verse "...as you sow ..."
Racism in the US of A is still rampant. Its amazing, just amazing.
The apple has fallen right on the roots of the tree...
Yet you still don't acknowledge the racism or condemn the statement
The seed doesn't fall too far from the tree. Why did the media even give this idiot the time of day. And what kind of Pastor is he? Sounds pretty evil to me.
obama should go back to kenya. or indonesia or wherever people who hate america and its values consider a workers paradise.
Cruz's father should return to Cuba so he can really appreciate what he has. As for his son,a whacko bird, he has hurt our Republican party to the core. I hope he does run for Prez/2016 so he can get his ass served in a platter. Let see if the millions of people that are supposedly hurting and want him to lead them. This man has delusions of grander and is a dangerous man by promoting his brand of politics. We must show him how a real caring, patriotic person should act.
What part of "take Obama back to Kenya" can possibly be taken out of context???
The hypocrisy of the Right is boundless...
This is how you roll Ted, huh? Your father spits in our face, you call it the rain?
an ill advised joke huh, well cruz is an ill advised joke that thank god has a limited shelf life. its always a joke or someone has interpreted the statement wrong. its never the fault of the one making the statement. they aren't even man enough to take responsibility. pathetic excuse for humans
It wasn't a joke. It was a racist remark. You can't spin this one away.
Go back to Cuba, Rafael.