Bud Kennedy

‘Oh, yes — I shot J.R.!’ Ted Cruz’s dad tells the real story of seeing JFK in Dallas

Watch as President John F. Kennedy delivers one of his last speeches before assassination

John F. Kennedy talking at the Americana Hotel about Latin America. It was his last time being in Miami, a week before he was assassinated in Dallas.
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John F. Kennedy talking at the Americana Hotel about Latin America. It was his last time being in Miami, a week before he was assassinated in Dallas.

Nobody in American politics has been the target of worse “fake news” than Pastor Rafael B. Cruz of Carrollton.

Two years after now-President Donald Trump accused him of a connection to the 1963 Dallas assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the father of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is somehow magnanimously able to laugh about it.

“Oh, yes — I shot J.R.!” he said jokingly in a conversation at a recent Dallas luncheon.

For much of 2016, Trump accused Rafael Cruz of something much worse than the fictional 1980 TV shooting of “Dallas” oilman J.R. Ewing.

That May before the Indiana primary, with Trump and Ted Cruz running hard for the Republican nomination, Trump blurted to Fox News that Cruz’s “father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald’s being — you know, shot.”

The claim about Oswald, Kennedy’s assassin, had been published weeks earlier on a commercial conspiracy website.

Then, at the height of the 2016 primaries, with Trump pushing newsrack sales and Cruz pushing Trump, the National Enquirer entertainment tabloid picked it up with a screaming yellow headline: “Ted Cruz Father Linked to JFK Assassination!”

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Front page of a 2016 National Enquirer alleging that the father of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was linked with JFK accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. GOP nominee Donald Trump said that there was a picture of them having breakfast. The picture is from a TV crew video taken in New Orleans of Oswald and an unidentified man — whom the National Enquirer suggested is Pastor Rafael B. Cruz — in 1963 distributing pro-Cuba flyers. Ted Cruz has denied the man is his father. National Enquirer

Even that July, after Trump won the nomination, he repeated the comment: “All I did is point out the fact that on the cover of the National Enquirer there was a picture of him [Oswald] and crazy Lee Harvey Oswald having breakfast.”

(It is not clear what photo Trump was describing. None of the Enquirer photos depicted a breakfast.)

At 79, Rafael Cruz laughs it off now. And he talks about exactly where he was Nov. 22, 1963.

Yes, he was here and saw the presidential motorcade.

“I was working for IBM in Dallas,” he said in a short conversation in the crowd at a luncheon for the Irving-based Institute for Policy Innovation think tank.

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At a Dallas luncheon Nov. 13, Pastor Rafael B. Cruz, right, the father of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, talks with University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato and regional administrator Beth Van Duyne of the federal Housing and Urban Development Department. Bud Kennedy bud@star-telegram.com

“I saw the motorcade pass about 15 minutes before it happened.”

Cruz was 24 then, the father of 2-year-old and 1-year-old daughters Miriam, now deceased, and Roxana.

He remembered specific details. He was having lunch with co-workers at a restaurant named the Music Box on Cedar Springs Road.

“I was having lunch at that restaurant and we came outside and stood on the sidewalk,” he said.

A check with the Dallas Public Library shows the Music Box indeed as at 2538 Cedar Springs Road, near Routh Street.

It was on the presidential motorcade route from Love Field along Lemmon Avenue, Turtle Creek Boulevard, Cedar Springs Road and Harwood Street to Main Street and then Elm Street past the Texas School Book Depository.

The elder Cruz is an evangelist and translator ordained in 2004 by Coppell-based Ministerios Mundo de Fe (“word of faith”), a network of charismatic, nondenominational churches..

Like us all, I’m sure he has told his memory of that day dozens of times. But as far I can tell, he never told reporters.

(I’ve always said that if Rafael Cruz really had a good story to tell about the assassination, he would have been telling it in the pulpit long ago.)

The Enquirer’s role in the Trump campaign and the president’s personal friendship with Enquirer chairman David Pecker are still coming into focus. Both remain the subject of unrelated investigations into whether campaign payments went unreported to two women who say they had affairs with the President.

A recent Huffington Post report retold in detail “The National Enquirer’s Plot To Assassinate Ted Cruz’s Candidacy.”

Staffers told the Post they were stunned that anyone would even believe the silly story.

Rick Tyler, Cruz’s communications director early in that campaign, is also quoted in the Post.

“What we’ve learned from Trump,” he said, is “if you repeat the lie often enough, there’s a scary amount of people who will believe it.”

Somehow, Rafael Cruz forgave it.

Ted Cruz beats out Beto O'Rourke to win re-election to the Senate. Cruz congratulated his opponent on his campaign and pledged to represent all Texans.

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