Does Donald Trump Really Believe Ted Cruz’s Father Is Connected To JFK’s Assassination?

The GOP race for President takes yet another bizarre turn.

Donald Trump Shrug
It is perhaps appropriate that as we approach what may well be the effective end of the race for the Republican nomination tonight in Indiana that things are taking one last, bizarre turn:

Donald Trump on Tuesday alleged that Ted Cruz’s father was with John F. Kennedy’s assassin shortly before he murdered the president, parroting a National Enquirer story claiming that Rafael Cruz was pictured with Lee Harvey Oswald handing out pro-Fidel Castro pamphlets in New Orleans in 1963.

A Cruz campaign spokesperson told the Miami Herald, which pointed out numerous flaws in the Enquirer story, that it was “another garbage story in a tabloid full of garbage.”

“His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald’s being — you know, shot. I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous,” Trump said Tuesday during a phone interview with Fox News. “What is this, right prior to his being shot, and nobody even brings it up. They don’t even talk about that. That was reported, and nobody talks about it.”

“I mean, what was he doing — what was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death? Before the shooting?” Trump continued. “It’s horrible.”

Trump’s tangent followed his rebuke of Rafael Cruz using the pulpit to court evangelicals for his son.

“I implore, I exhort every member of the body of Christ to vote according to the word of God and vote for the candidate that stands on the word of God and on the Constitution of the United States of America,” Rafael Cruz said in a video clip aired by Fox News. “And I am convinced that man is my son, Ted Cruz. The alternative could be the destruction of America.”

Asked to respond, Trump called it a disgrace. “I think it’s a disgrace that he’s allowed to do it. I think it’s a disgrace that he’s allowed to say it,” he said, before touting his support from Jerry Falwell Jr. and other evangelical leaders.

“You look at so many of the ministers that are backing me, and they’re backing me more so than they’re backing Cruz, and I’m winning the evangelical vote,” Trump continued. “It’s disgraceful that his father can go out and do that. And just — and so many people are angry about it. And the evangelicals are angry about it, the way he does that.”

The Miami Herald looks at the claim and cites several reasons why it’s unlikely that Oswald would have had any contact at all with anyone in the Cuban community in the months before November 22, 1963, and it should be duly noted that there’s apparently no evidence that Rafael Cruz Sr. was anywhere near New Orleans, where the photo was taken, in October 1963. Cruz, meanwhile, sought to dismiss the entire story as nonsense and used it to continue his attacks on Trump:

Donald Trump is a pathological liar, Ted Cruz said Tuesday in a forceful and passionate rebuke of the Republican presidential front-runner.

Phoning into Fox News on Tuesday, the real-estate mogul parroted a National Enquirer report alleging that Cruz’s father, Rafael Cruz, was with John F. Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, suggesting that the elder Cruz was somehow involved in JFK’s murder.

“This morning, Donald Trump went on national television and attacked my father. Donald Trump alleges that my dad was involved in assassinating JFK,” Cruz told reporters during a news conference in Evansville, Indiana. “Now, let’s be clear, this is nuts. This is not a reasonable position. This is just kooky.”

“And while I’m at it, I guess I should go ahead and admit, yes, my dad killed JFK, he is secretly Elvis and Jimmy Hoffa is buried in his backyard,” Cruz continued sarcastically.

Cruz defended his father, recalling the story of how came to America with just $100, and slammed the National Enquirer as “tabloid trash” that published an “idiotic story.” Cruz said the tabloid, which recently published a story alleging that the Texas senator has had multiple extramarital affairs, has become Trump’s hit piece to smear his targets.

“I’m gonna tell you what I really think of Donald Trump: This man is a pathological liar,” Cruz said. “He doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth, and in a pattern that I think is straight out of a psychology textbook, his response is to accuse everybody else of lying.”


The billionaire issued a response Tuesday afternoon, suggesting Cruz is becoming “more unhinged” as he continues to rack up losses.

“Ted Cruz is a desperate candidate trying to save his failing campaign. It is no surprise he has resorted to his usual tactics of over-the-top rhetoric that nobody believes,” Trump said in a statement. “Today’s ridiculous outburst only proves what I have been saying for a long time, that Ted Cruz does not have the temperament to be President of the United States.”

Before Trump spoke out again, Donald Trump Jr. credited Cruz for “an impressive meltdown.” “Desperate but impressive,” he tweeted. “Reminded me of my 3 year old coming off a sugar high.”

Trump campaign senior adviser Barry Bennett told CNN that Cruz’s explosion was “a truly sad display” coming from a campaign that knows it won’t win Indiana.

“I know he’s tired. I feel for he and his family, but that was reprehensible,” Bennett said. “I mean, no one should do this. I don’t know who thought this was a great idea. But, you know, we’re watching his campaign implode. We’re watching his reputation just being torn to shreds.”

Cruz stressed that Trump is incapable of being honest. “But he combines it with being a narcissist, a narcissist at a level I don’t think this country’s ever seen,” Cruz said. “Donald Trump is such a narcissist that Barack Obama looks at him and says, ‘Dude, what’s your problem?”’

By many accounts, Cruz’s response this morning to Trump’s original comments about the National Enquirer story that prompted this entire silly controversy was one that seemed over the top and angry in a way that we have seldom seen from the Texas Senator. Arguably, though, that’s exactly the kind of response that Trump was hoping to provoke from Cruz on a day when people in Indiana headed to the polls and the headlines are all suggesting that Cruz is headed for a huge loss that may remove whatever remaining logic there was for continuing his campaign. To the extent any voters are going to see the response, they’re likely to only see an angry Ted Cruz in a rant that could end up rubbing undecided voters the wrong way. In other words, Trump doesn’t necessarily believe what he says here, or any of the other times he says something outrageous, but he knows it’s likely to provoke people to overreact and that he can use that overreaction to his advantage. It’s a tactic that has worked quite well for him several times in the past, and may well work for him again in Indiana.

In any case, whatever Trump’s motives might be for latching on to a ridiculously contrived National Enquirer story, it is yet another example of the bizarre twists and turns that this election has taken over the past ten months, largely due to the actions or words of one Donald J. Trump. At various times, we’ve dealt a whole host of claims on his part about conspiracies involving Mexicans, Muslims, the Chinese, and a whole host of other groups. He’s among the more prominent people to make the claim that Ted Cruz is not a ‘natural born citizen,’ and four years ago he was playing a prominent role in the birther movement that claimed President Obama was not born in the United States until that movement was shut down by the White House’s production of the President’s certified birth certificate. Is it really any surprise that he’d eventually get around to the granddaddy of all American conspiracy theories, the Kennedy Assassination, if he could somehow use it to attack his chief opponent in the race for the Republican nomination? Of course it isn’t, any more than it’s going to be a surprise when he starts repeating the worst of the conspiracy theories about the Clinton’s during the upcoming General Election. Whitewater, Rose Law Firm billing records, claims that, as Governor, Bill Clinton looked the other way while airfields in Arkansas were used to smuggle cocaine, and Vince Foster. You can expect all of it to come up yet again. Thanks for nothing, Republicans.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. gVOR08 says:

    Per the famous book, it’s called bullshitting, not lying, meaning that believing or not believing is a matter of complete indifference to Trump.

  2. C. Clavin says:

    Does Trump believe it?
    Does he believe Obama was born in Kenya? Does he believe Mexico is going to pay for that beautiful wall? Does he believe he can march into the Middle East and take all their oil?
    WTF…does he believe he is qualified to be President?
    Trump is so friggin’ mendacious that it’s impossible to know what he believes.
    The only thing Trump has said, that I believe, is that he wants to sleep with his daughter.

  3. grumpy realist says:

    I’m starting to think we should rein in the limits of the First Amendment, and particularly, strengthen libel and slander laws. We’re already starting to see increased attacks in the US against “Muslims and funny-looking foreigners”. The First Amendment is not a license to whip up a mob.

  4. CSK says:

    I think the question of whether Trump believes anything he says is moot. He says whatever he thinks will benefit him at any given point in time. He changed his position–if it can be called that–three times in the course of one afternoon; first he stated that women having abortions should be punished, then he said the abortion provider should be punished, and finally wrapped it up by saying the laws should remain the same. This was all before 5 p.m. on the same day. He found a convenient way to trash Cruz, so he took it.

  5. Franklin says:

    @grumpy realist: I just read somewhere that libel and slander laws don’t even apply if the victim is dead. This came about because someone accused Prince of something or other and his estate can’t sue.

  6. steve s says:

    Trump’s next 6 months are going to finish driving the Cubans here in Florida far, far away from the GOP, and once our 29 electoral votes are firmly in the D column, the GOP is done electing presidents.

  7. Jen says:

    This race has truly gone down the rabbit hole. All we need for the next act is a Mad Hatter, some talking field mice, and the disembodied head of a Cheshire cat looming.

    Trump is utterly reprehensible and is demonstrating, every. single. day. that he is totally unqualified to be president. The question that remains open is how many people in this country are frankly dumb enough to think that this…clown…is what we need as Commander in Chief.

    Thanks for nothing, Republicans, indeed.

  8. CSK says:


    It is true that libel and slander laws do not apply to the dead, since, being dead, they have no reputation that can be sullied. The courts have always looked at this very pragmatically. A reputation is a tangible asset, much like a house, and if your reputation is unjustly sullied in such a way as to prevent you from earning a living, you have been libeled or slandered. On the other hand, if you’re dead, you’re not earning a living.

  9. Tyrell says:

    I have read a lot about the assassination and I have not seen much about Oswald’s activities in Florida.
    I have long held the opinion that there should be a new investigation in light of all the new technology and forensics available now that they did not have back then.

  10. CSK says:

    @grumpy realist:

    No, it’s not a license to whip up a mob, but I would strongly disagree with you here on strengthening the libel and slander laws. Trump wants to do that–to be able to punish people who criticize him. He once sued a writer who reported Trump’s net worth at being less than Trump thought it should be. Trump lost, of course, but as he has said, a lawsuit costs him only a few dollars, but it financially ruins the people he sues.

    In any case, the First Amendment specifically protects religious, cultural, and political criticism, and I don’t want anything infringing on that. When it’s your ox being gored, it makes a big difference.

  11. grumpy realist says:

    @CSK: The problem I have with the present situation is we have someone like Trump lying his head off about seeing Islamic rejoicing in NJ when 9/11 occurred. That, in turn, has helped lead to more attacks by his supporters on Muslims.

    Note the one big difference between this and Trump’s going after someone who just simply pointed out actual data: in one case, Trump is lying, while in the other case the person is telling the truth.

  12. CSK says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I see your point, but it would be virtually impossible to draw a direct connection between the two events unless you could get someone to testify that he (or she) committed violence against a Muslim specifically because of something Donald Trump said.

    First Amendment law is, of necessity, very clearly delineated. It has to be. This site wouldn’t exist if we didn’t have the freedom to express our distaste for certain people.

    What troubles me more is the number of people who seem to find a charlatan/buffoon/ignoramus/racist/misogynist/xenophobe qualified to president of the United States.

  13. PJ says:

    Maybe there is some truth in the rumor that Ted Cruz’s real father is Fidel Castro.

  14. Slugger says:

    This kind of stuff can not be dealt with on any rational plane. There are UFO abduction stories that have more truth. There are true things that Trump says, but clearly the true statements are part of the bait. There is cheese in the trap; go after it at your own risk.
    The Republican Party insiders have a duty to themselves and our nation to keep this from being the face of their party.

  15. CSK says:

    According to ABC News, Cruz has suspended his campaign.

  16. Pch101 says:

    According to Ted Cruz’s dad:

    “We need to send Barack Obama back to Chicago. I’d like to send him back to Kenya, back to Indonesia…We have to unmask this man. This is a man that seeks to destroy all concept of God. And I will tell you what, this is classical Marxist philosophy. Karl Marx very clearly said Marxism requires that we destroy God because government must become God.”

    You’ve gotta love it when conspiracy theorists get into pissing contests with each other.

  17. C. Clavin says:


  18. Jen says:

    Re: Cruz — I did not think that would happen now.

    And so we have it: Trump v. Clinton (with Sanders dragging his feet just beyond the curtain).

    This is going to be a horrific countdown to November.

  19. Tillman says:

    Just Grin and Bear It 2016

  20. Jen says:

    Oh, dear. A bit of a meltdown occurring at RedState…can all stages of grief happen at once?

  21. CSK says:

    NBC has called Indiana for Sanders: 53-47.

  22. Mikey says:

    What the hell happened to push Cruz out now? Did Trump promise him the VP spot? I didn’t think Cruz would take that, but on the other hand he’s still young and he could see it as a stepping stone…but who knows, it’s all guessing at this point.

    There was a time I never could have imagined one of America’s two major parties actually stooping to nomination of a quasi-fascist carnival barker who appeals to America’s basest sentiments…but these are far from normal times.

  23. Pch101 says:


    Ted Cruz should have done well in Indiana; it’s a largely rural state with a large base of social conservatives. The fact that Trump could win a majority in a place like that can’t be great news for his donors and staff.

    It will be interesting to see what happens next with Kasich. Not sure whether the rest of the GOP will try to rally behind him as an alternative to Trump or whether they’ll attempt to work with Trump instead.

  24. Well, at least the Carly Fiorina as VP choice finally makes sense. Cruz needed someone to tell everyone on his campaign staff they were out of a job on Wednesday.

  25. Kylopod says:


    I think the question of whether Trump believes anything he says is moot.

    I don’t think it’s moot at all. Just look at his rant about Lee Harvey Oswald. The striking thing is that real conspiracy buffs don’t sound like this. He sounds like a parody of a conspiracy buff. It’s so unconvincing it’s almost meta. It’s like he thought to himself, “Okay, now to put on my black-helicopter hat.”

    Back in 2011 when Trump was on his birther gig (this only two years after he had praised Obama to high heaven), conspiracy-nut Joseph Farrah referred to it as “irresistible theater.” If someone as delusional as Farrah understood that Trump is trolling, why do so many otherwise sane and rational people continue to assume his act is for real? Why all this “He may be crazy but at least he’s authentic” nonsense? It brings to mind the George Burns quote, “The secret to acting is sincerity, and if you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”

  26. MBunge says:

    Cruz quit because he didn’t want to have to deal with Trump anymore. Even knowing he wouldn’t win, Cruz still could have laid claim to being the last true conservative that tried to save the party and the country from a Trump defeat and a Hillary win.

    But he just couldn’t take the beatings any longer. Cruz spit in the eye of his own party’s Senate Majority Leader and Speaker of the House without breaking stride, but Donald Trump made him tap out.



  27. Mister Bluster says:

    @Slugger:..The Republican Party insiders have a duty to themselves and our nation to keep this from being the face of their party.

    It’s too late. Typhoid Trump already is the face of the Republican Party.
    What can they to do now to get rid of him?

  28. C. Clavin says:

    I’d love to see the GOP go for Kasich…that would shred what little is left of the Republucan party.

  29. C. Clavin says:

    Warren on Trump:

    There’s more enthusiasm for @realDonaldTrump among leaders of the KKK than leaders of the political party he now controls.

  30. EddieinCA says:


  31. Tyrell says:

    Even after all these years, not a week and usually not a day goes by without some reminder. That time is still a clear memory. Especially when November rolls around. Even now, new information, theories, and questions come up.