‘I disappointed my supporters’ – Cal Cunningham speaks with CBS 17 amid growing controversy

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Cal Cunningham, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in North Carolina, has been largely quiet since news of his relationship with another woman broke.

CBS 17’s Michael Hyland saw the candidate in Cameron Village in Raleigh early Wednesday and spoke with Cunningham about the controversy.

Hyland asked Cunningham why he was relucanat to speak about the inappropriate relationship.

“I’ve made it clear. I’ve hurt my family. I’ve disappointed my supporters. And I’m taking responsibility for that,” Cunningham said.

The candidate went on to say more than once that 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.

Hyland asked the candidate if he had a message for voters and supporters amid the controversy.

“That the issues are the same today as they were last week and the weeks before. We need a champion for health care. I’m going to work to make the best case that I am that champion for health care, working to bring down the cost of prescription drugs, working to protect and build off the Affordable Care Act. That’s what voters are looking for and a champion in Washington. And, I’m going to make that absolute best case over the next few weeks.”

The North Carolina Democratic Party released a statement on Cunningham’s situation just after noon Wednesday.

“This race is about which candidate will stand up for North Carolina and protect our health care. The fact is that there’s only one candidate who has blocked Medicaid expansion, voted to end protections for people with preexisting conditions, and enabled this administration’s bungled response to this pandemic, which is why North Carolina will send Cal to the U.S. Senate next month,” said Wayne Goodwin, party chairman.

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.

CBS 17 will update this story as it develops.

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