WICHITA – A Kansas television station is accusing a county commissioner of defaming one of its reporters when he refused to be interviewed by her and called her an advocate for people living in the country illegally.
Beatriz Parres, a bilingual reporter for English-speaking Wichita television station KWCH and Spanish-language KDCU, approached Sedgwick County Commission chairman Richard Ranzau on Monday to ask him a question about a recall effort seeking his removal from office.
Ranzau refused to answer her questions, saying he thinks the Spanish-born reporter is an advocate for people who are illegally living in the U.S., but agreed to speak with a reporter from KWCH.
KWCH is a CBS affiliate, while KDCU is affiliated with the Spanish-language Univision network.
The KWCH news operation produces newscasts for both stations through a shared-service agreement, The Wichita Eagle reported.
In a video broadcast Monday, Ranzau walked away from Parres, who asked to interview him about a recall effort started by a pro-immigrant group. Petitioners want to remove Ranzau over his ongoing campaign to prevent federal food aid to families in which parents can’t prove they’re in the country legally.
“I’m not going to do your interview for Univision,” Ranzau told Parres. When she asked “Why not?” he replied, “Because I don’t want to.”
When Parres, who was born in Madrid, told Ranzau she was representing KWCH as well, Ranzau told her: “When you have someone who works for Channel 12 only, have them come here.”
He spoke with a different KWCH reporter about the recall effort on Tuesday.
Ranzau told The Eagle he thinks Parres is an activist for illegal immigration and working with the advocacy group seeking his removal.
He said he was willing to speak with “legitimate news organizations,” but not with someone who is an advocate posing as a journalist.
When asked what evidence he had that Parres was an advocate, he said, “That’s my belief. She evidently knows them very well and some of her comments and this, that and the other.”
KWCH news director Brian Gregory said Parres is not an activist but rather a journalist who covers events put on by advocacy groups.
“It’s unfortunate that an elected public official would make such baseless comments about a journalist,” Gregory said. “I am disappointed that Commissioner Ranzau has chosen to defame one of our employees.”