Sen. Ted Cruz returned to Texas Thursday evening a day after flying to Mexico with his family even as his state reels from a historic storm that has left hundreds of thousands of people without power and safe drinking water.
Several airport employees and fellow passengers told ABC News the Republican lawmaker went out a back exit escorted by officers after arriving at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
Cruz faced backlash after initial reports emerged on social media that he had jet-setted to Cancun despite the widespread crisis in Texas. Speaking with reporters outside his home upon his return Thursday evening, Cruz said in hindsight, "I wouldn't have done it."
"I have to admit, I started having second thoughts almost the moment I sat down on the plane," Cruz said. "On the one hand, all of us who are parents have a responsibility to take care of our kids. ... But I also have a responsibility that I take very seriously of fighting for the state of Texas."
"I understand why people are upset," he later said, adding he found some of the criticism "unfortunate." "My intention was to take care of my family."
The senator was initially scheduled to return to Texas on Saturday with his family, but changed his reservation in the morning to return Thursday evening, according to a source familiar with his travel schedule.
Cruz's office told ABC News the senator was tested Thursday morning for COVID-19 to comply with the new mandate requiring citizens to present a negative test before traveling to the United States.
"Leaving when so many Texans were hurting didn't feel right, and so I changed my return flight and flew back on the first available flight I could take," Cruz told reporters.
In a statement Thursday afternoon, Cruz said the trip was for his two daughters, Caroline and Catherine, and their friends.
"This has been an infuriating week for Texans ... Like millions of Texans, our family lost heat and power, too," Cruz said in a statement with ABC News.
"With school canceled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends. Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon," he said.
"My staff and I are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas. We want our power back, our water on, and our homes warm. My team and I will continue using all our resources to keep Texans informed and safe," Cruz added
The Houston Police Department confirmed to ABC News that Cruz's staff contacted police personnel on Wednesday requesting assistance upon the senator's arrival at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport, though they did not specify what type of assistance.
Police said he arrived at Terminal E and officers "monitored his movements" through the terminal.
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