When Sen. Ted Cruz began his first speech as a presidential candidate on Monday, he talked about his father.
The story of Rafael Cruz — growing up in Cuba, joining a revolution to overthrow Batista at age 17, jailed and tortured, and fleeing to the United States — has been an integral part of the Texas senator's political story.
But don't take it from Ted: Rafael is also out on the stump, telling his own story. Since his son's election and rise as a conservative star, the elder Cruz has become a popular and prolific Tea Party speaker around the country. His life story is compelling, and it doesn't end once he left Cuba — a straight A student, he got accepted to the University of Texas-Austin and after a family friend bribed an official to stamp his passport, made his way by ferry to Key West. There he boarded a bus for Texas where he says he learned English by repeatedly watching movies and paid his way through school working as dishwasher. His life was turned around when he found his faith in the Lord.
But at the grassroots events featuring Rafael Cruz, he often makes news in a different kind of way. "Pastor Cruz does not speak for the senator," statements from his son's office frequently note, when one controversial statement or another surfaces.
Rafael Cruz would like to send Obama "back to Kenya, back to Indonesia," he said at one gathering. Obama, "probably doesn't have any problem with what this butcher in Philadelphia is doing," he said of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell who killed babies born alive. The "average black" doesn't understand why the minimum wage is bad, he said at another.
A BuzzFeed News review of Cruz's speeches finds him often making controversial, conspiracy-based claims about the Obama administration, many of which are listed below.