Thanks to good timing, savvy sources, and sheer persistence, a Muleshoe reporter secured an interview with Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) Monday that has now been cited nationally.
Cruz was traveling through West Texas this week on an agriculture tour. His tour coincided with the second presidential debate and the release of a 2005 recording which revealed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump having lewd conversations about women. Cruz, who had also been a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, notably refused to endorse Trump during the GOP Convention this summer. But just weeks ago Cruz announced that he would vote for Trump.
As influential Republicans weighed in this week on Trump, the question remained, where did Cruz stand on the party’s nominee?
While Cruz’s press team canceled interviews with other West Texas media outlets (including EverythingLubbock.com) during this agriculture tour, Magann Rennels was able to get the scoop. Rennels is a 73-year-old reporter who runs the Muleshoe, TX, based Channel 6/ Gillamb Advertising out of her own home. She found Cruz at a local restaurant and got an on-camera interview with the senator.
A video posted to her channel’ s YouTube page showed Rennels asking the senator a few questions:
“Are you still backing the Republican candidate for president Donald J. Trump?” Rennels asked Cruz.
“Well I’m supporting the Republican nominee because Hilary Clinton is an absolute disaster,” Cruz replied. “Now my differences with Donald, I have articulated at great length during the campaign, and I tried all my might– and I gotta tell you it was an amazing journey..”
“Are you gonna run for president again?” Rennels interjected.
“Well, we’ll see what the future holds, I’ll tell you this: I’m committed to the long term journey, right now,” Cruz said. “My focus is everything I was fighting for in the presidential race– fighting for freedom, jobs, security– is everything I’m fighting for in Texas, and my responsibility, my focus is on representing 27 million Texans.”
Rennels’ video, which she said was shot at around 1 p.m. Monday, was cited within hours by many national outlets, including The Texas Tribune, Politico, and the New York Daily News. When EverythingLubbock.com arrived in Muleshoe to interview Rennels Tuesday, she was receiving more phone calls from national news outlets.
Rennels said that most of the outlets cited her interview, but she was disappointed to see that a few didn’t give her credit for speaking to Cruz.
“You know, we worked for that story, it’s my story, it’s our story,” Rennels said.
There’s a lot of work that goes into what Rennels does with Channel 6, she explained. Rennels describes herself as a lifelong journalist, she recalled the first report she ever did at age 11, the story was about a local girl scout troop. Now she and her son Gil Rennels produce around 60 stories each week from a news operation based out of their home. Channel 6 airs these stories both on a local cable station as well as online.
Rennels is the lone reporter. “I’m it,” she said with a smile.
That tenacity is part of how she got the scoop on Cruz. She said a friend called her son Monday to tell him that Cruz was eating at Leal’s, a local Mexican restaurant.
“‘Guess who I just saw eating at Leal’s? It was Ted Cruz!'” Rennels recalled the friend saying. So Rennels dropped the other news stories she was working on and made her way to Leal’s.
“I was so thrilled that Ted Cruz, our state senator, was eating at Leal’s, because Leal’s Mexican Restaurant here in Muleshoe has been since 1957 one of our faithful and loyal advertisers,” Rennels said.
Rennels teared up while talking about how Leal’s has supported their news operation over the years.
She went over to the restaurant, spotted Cruz from afar, and then talked to the manger.
“She said, ‘He’s just now getting his food.’ In Muleshoe you don’t rush someone who is eating at Leal’s, you let them enjoy their meal,” Rennels explained.
So she sat in a front booth where she knew the senator would have to walk past, and waited for about an hour.
She asked the press team for permission to speak to Cruz, and soon, the camera was rolling.
“I had no idea what he would say, I did feel like when I asked him about running for president, he would not commit to either way,” Rennels reflected. She said that Cruz was “congenial” and very willing to talk with her.
During her interview she said Cruz’s press team was urging him to get moving because they needed to move on to their next stop in Friona,TX, but Rennels said she didn’t let that impact her reporting.
“You know how it feels, it’s just adrenaline in your veins, that’s what a journalist looks for,” she said.
Over the years, Rennels said that she has been contacted by many news outlets nationally– for both local news stories and for profiles of her at-home broadcast. She recalls that certain outlets have questioned her talent or journalistic integrity because she works in a small town. Rennels hopes that her success with interviewing Senator Cruz makes a case for the power of small town journalism.
But while this interview made headlines, Rennels said, it’s not necessarily the most important interview she’s done.
“When I go to Mary DeShazo Elementary school and talk with children at the school, it’s just as important if not more important than our United States senator, really and truly, because they’re right here at home,” she said.
Rennel’s true love is sharing the stories that impact Muleshoe. She explained, it’s what she was born to do.
“I really hope and pray truly that I will never burn out, that my life on this earth will go out before I burn out,” she said, reminiscing on her work. “I love it.”