"I love my father. He is a pastor. He is a man of deep integrity. And he made a joke." -- Sen. Ted Cruz
The "joke" the Texas Republican and recently-announced 2016 presidential candidate was referring to was a comment that his father, Rafael Cruz, made about President Obama that smacked of birtherism.
The elder Cruz announced that Obama should "go back to Kenya" at an April 2013 tea party event, drawing rapturous applause from the conservative faithful. It's hard to see the humor Ted Cruz was referring to in his father’s suggestion that the president is not really American – a particularly ironic claim given the controversy over the Texas senator’s own birthplace.
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But Rafael Cruz has said far more incendiary things, and his remarks are sure to draw increased scrutiny now that his son has formally declared his intention to run for the White House.
For instance, there was the time in February of 2013, when Rafael Cruz told an audience of like-minded conservatives that black voters were "uninformed" and had been "deceived" by Democrats into thinking they were the party that best served the interests of their community.
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"All the civil rights that the African-Americans have obtained have come from Republicans,” Papa Cruz said at the time.
Ted Cruz's reps have gone on record saying "Pastor Cruz does not speak for the Senator," but the 75-year-old ordained evangelical minister is an outspoken man with a healthy following, and his history of broadsides against liberals will not be easily forgotten.
In just the last four years, Rafael Cruz has suggested that gay marriage is a government conspiracy, that President Obama is pro-murder and remarkably similar to Fidel Castro, and argued that American media are serving as a "ministry of information" seeking to destroy the country from within.
As recently as this month, Pastor Cruz told an audience in Hutchinson, Kansas, that if Hillary Clinton were elected in 2016 "this country will be destroyed."
Besides raising questions about the president's birthplace, Obama's political enemies have cited anti-American statements from his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, to buttress attack lines and frame a debate over his ideology. Will Sen. Cruz's father invite similar controversy?
The elder Cruz has frequently campaigned alongside his son, and conservative pundits like Rush Limbaugh have enthusiastically sung his praises. "No one else in the emerging GOP field has an ally like the charismatic elder Cruz," declared The National Review in 2013.
Sen. Cruz has been knocked for far-right stands that some argue will keep him from appealing to mainstream voters. But compared to his father, Cruz the younger looks like a moderate.
Only time will tell if the Texas lawmaker will have to start answering for a man who once claimed the Bible "tells you exactly who to vote for."