(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.
that story will be run by cnn until 2016 I guess...
I know of only a few people, thank God, that like Ted Cruz. And all 100% of these people are nutjobs. Funny how birthers want him as President when he was born in Canada. Refer bsck to my nutjob comment and add/insert hypocrites.
well his father could go back to cuba and help them out and try to get the miami cubans and us to lift restriction on that poor country since he fought with castro in the sierra maestro mountains. so there go back to cuba you old bag. they shouldn't take it out on ted though!
Apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
Obama's author's biography put out by a publisher, said he was born in Kenya. Gosh, where do you suppose a publisher would get that idea, if not from Obama himself? Either Obama lied then, or now...and given his propensity to lie, I'd say he always has lied, and has never stopped.
Isn't Ted Cruz from Canada?
Like father like son. Now we can understand why Ted Cruz is as awful as he is. He was raised by a bigot of a father. We don't need both men at the capitol.
Ted Cruze's wife works for Goldman Sacks. Why does the tea party love him? Are they just stupid?
In other words, its our fault for pointing out that Cruz's father made an offensive statement, not his fault for making the statement in the first place.
I don't believe for one minute it was a "joke." He meant every misguided word of it.
If Ted Cruz's father made a joke about gays, Jews or other stigmatized groups, we would be offended and criticize him. Calling a hostile comment a joke does not render it any less hostile or offensive.
Speaks volumes about Cruz that directly quoting his father is considered "smear tactics."
Two stupid people. Runs in the family.
Ted Cruz is his "father's I'll advised joke"!!!
A Cuban born individual (Cruz' father) is supporting his Canadian-born son by suggesting that the American-born Obama "go back to Kenya".
Now, the usual spin: "It was just a joke".
Watch the video. I don't hear the audience laughing.
They are cheering and applauding what they obviously consider a serious statement.
Cruz would be nothing but a joke if it weren't for ignorant conservatives that have to be told what to think, and actually vote against their own best interest. This statistic pretty much sums it up: 46% of the population believes in the biblical story of creation, which puts the age of the Earth at around 6,000 years. Is it any wonder we have so many people who would elect this buffoon as president?
Sometimes the hate just spills over. Jesus would puke.
How does Ted Cruz expect to run for President? Which clearly he is planning, with all of his trips to Iowa and New Hampshire. He was born in Canada, and there's NO WAY that the GOP will be able to pass a law allowing citizens who haven't been born here to be President – especially with their hate-filled birther rants they've continually made against Pres. Obama.
Is Mother Jones Obama's personal NSA? They seem to have the GOP under good surveillance...
First the Romney hidden camera and how this?
Bob, what you call "good surveillance" is the reality that there are cell phones with cameras everywhere. The truth of what Republicans really think and say is coming out, and yes, that hurts. It always shows that racism and disregard for the 47% is alive and well in the GOP.
Land of the FREE home of the brave. Many men died to make sure he could say it if he wanted. Like it or not he has the right.
Yes Allen, "he has the right" but there is little bravery in making racist comments.
No surprise here!!! The nut does not fall far from the tree.
Go back to Cuba, hahaha. I'm not joking.
GOP is the party of bigoted hateful people.
I thought Ted Cruz was his father's 'ill-advised joke'.
It has been decided. The media entertainment complex wants Cruz to go down. He is not their choice for the next president, and they are worried. Now practice my little Orwellian pound puppies: George Bush....neeeeigh!, Sarah Palin... neeeeigh, Ted Cruz....neeeeigh, Frau Bluher.....neeeeigh! Yes now you have your mind right and may vote as the democratic morlock have decided. Hang around though, we need you for supper!