RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Democratic Senate candidate Cal Cunningham said he is “deeply sorry for the hurt” he caused after news broke about an extramarital relationship with a woman.
“We can all agree that this is, by far, the most important election of our lifetime. Before we get into the issues that affect this campaign, I want you to hear something directly from me,” he said.
“I am deeply sorry for the hurt that I have caused in my personal life. And I also apologize to all of you. And I hope each of you watching at home will accept this sincere apology. We will continue to work together to change the direction of our country and strengthen our state.”
In response to Cunningham’s apology, Sen. Thom Tillis’ campaign issued the following statement:
“Cal Cunningham’s comments tonight only make his scandal — and the hypocrisy of his campaign — worse. Cunningham is afraid to directly address why and how he betrayed the trust of North Carolinians. He offered no explanation for his extramarital affairs, instead choosing to read off an insincere apology written by his campaign consultants from DC, in line with the fake and insincere persona he is trying to sell to North Carolina. Cal Cunningham needs to stop hiding behind prewritten statements and teleprompters. He needs to answer every single question from reporters he has spent the last week ignoring. North Carolinians deserve a full explanation; the truth still matters.”
Cunningham on Wednesday told CBS 17’s Michael Hyland he was “taking responsibility” for hurting his family and disappointing his supporters. He also said his campaign isn’t about his personal life but the people of North Carolina.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Army Reserve confirmed to CBS 17 that it was investigating “the matters” involving Cunningham.
The Army Reserve also said it was “unable to provide further details.”
Cunningham said he will participate in that investigation.
Previously undisclosed text messages obtained by The Associated Press and additional interviews show that the extramarital relationship extended beyond suggestive texts to an intimate encounter as recently as July.
A week ago, a conservative website, NationalFile.com, published text messages between Cunningham and Arlene Guzman Todd, a public relations strategist from California, that suggested a personal relationship.
The newly obtained texts provide both a more specific timeline about their relationship, which shows it was recent, as well as details that describe intimate encounters – not simply a digital exchange.
The text messages were not obtained from Guzman Todd. But the AP contacted her to confirm their authenticity. In a series of interviews late Monday as well as in the text messages, Guzman Todd described two in-person encounters with Cunningham, one in March in Los Angeles that she said did not include intimate contact and a second in July in North Carolina, where she said they were intimate.
In the text messages to her friend, Guzman Todd told her she was intimate with Cunningham in his home, which she later characterized as “weird.”
In another exchange, Guzman Todd indicated that she was frustrated by the limited attention that he showed her.
“I’m just going to send to his opponent his naked photos,” Guzman Todd wrote. “That will teach him.”
“You don’t deserve me Cal,” she said in a separate text message. She added in another, “He knows (that I) can tank his campaign.”
In a statement, Guzman Todd apologized for the “pain and embarrassment, and disrespect I’ve caused to my immediate family, loved ones, and everyone affected by this situation.”
“A few months back, I displayed a lapse in judgment by engaging in a relationship with Cal Cunningham during a period of marital separation,” Guzman Todd said. “The relationship spanned several months and consisted primarily of a series of text exchanges and an in-person encounter.” She did not elaborate, but her text messages described the intimacy.
Cunningham has two teenage children and has been married for two decades.
Cunningham said he will not drop out of the race.
Republican Incumbent Thom Tillis has seized on the revelations, arguing that Cunningham “owes the people of North Carolina a full explanation” for his extramarital activity. But he may be ill positioned to force the issue after disclosing hours before the text messages were made public that he has contracted the coronavirus.
“On the debate stage last week Cal said it’s about integrity — and I agree,” Tillis said on “Fox & Friends.”
Both candidates are now on the sidelines. Tillis is self-isolating at his home, and his Charlotte campaign office is closed for the rest of the week. Cunningham pulled out of a previously planned online forum on Monday with the Libertarian candidate in the race. His campaign gave no reason for his decision.