Tom Pennington / Getty Images file
Sen. Ted Cruz answers questions from the media after meeting with small business owners on Oct. 22, 2013 in Fort Worth, Texas.
Sen. Ted Cruz made his first late-night TV appearance on Friday, discussing his growing national profile and reiterating his disapproval of the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act.
No sooner had Cruz, 42, sat down on the couch on NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" than the host confronted the Tea Party favorite from Texas about his portrayal in the media as a controversial and polarizing figure.
"I've been reading a lot about you lately, and they describe you as aggressive, arrogant and abrasive. Accurate?" Leno asked.
Calm and poised, Cruz replied: "I don’t know that you can believe everything you read. You know, what I’m trying to do is do my job. And occasionally people don’t like that."
The senator, clad in a suit with no tie and sporting black leather cowboy boots for his late-night debut, said he felt "incredibly privileged" to be representing the 26 million people in his state, even as the country is facing "huge challenges."
"I think Americans are deeply frustrated that Washington is broken," Cruz said, adding that he believes the biggest divide is not between Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill, but between entrenched politicians in Washington and the American people.
"What we’re doing right now isn't working," he said, adding that the Obama administration's big government policies are not creating jobs or economic growth.
"Obamacare is killing jobs," Cruz said, referring to President Barack Obama's signature health care law. It was the junior Texas senator's 21-hour anti-Obamacare filibuster in late September and his many confrontations on the Hill with members of both parties that put him in the spotlight.
When asked by Leno why Texas, a state where 25 percent of people don’t have health care, would reject Obamacare, Cruz hit some familiar points.
"It's taking away a lot of people's health insurance and, number two, because it's killing jobs," said Cruz, one of the leaders of the Defund Obamacare movement in Congress.
When pressed on the issue of gay marriage, Cruz said it should be a matter deferred to each state.
"I support marriage between one man and one woman," he said. "But I also think it’s a question for the states. Some states have made decisions one way on gay marriage. Some states have made decisions the other way. And that’s the great thing about our Constitution, is different states can make different decisions depending on the values of their citizens."
Asked about recent anti-gay marriage comments in the news made by his father, Pastor Rafael Cruz, the senator said critics are better off attacking him, and not his dad.
"Some folks have decided to try to go after him because they want to take some shots at me," Cruz said. "But I think the critics are better off attacking me."
Cruz's father immigrated from Cuba more than 50 years ago.
The senator added: "My dad has been my hero my whole life."