Asked four times whether there are more affairs not yet known, Cunningham declined to say yes or no
Posted October 9, 2020 2:48 p.m. EDT
Updated October 9, 2020 8:08 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cal Cunningham was asked repeatedly Friday whether he's had other extramarital affairs aside from one confirmed this week, but he declined to answer the questions.
Cunningham's campaign scheduled a virtual news conference to discuss the need for a better response from Congress to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but every question he was asked was related to his affair with Arlene Guzman Todd, a public relations strategist from California and the wife of an Army veteran.
He acknowledged a week ago sending Guzman Todd inappropriate text messages, but she confirmed to The Associated Press on Tuesday that they had two in-person encounters: 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.
Cunningham apologized in a written statement last week and publicly Tuesday night during a North Carolina League of Conservation Voters event "for the hurt I have caused in my personal life," but he has never openly admitted to an affair.
He repeated his apology Friday whenever a reporter asked him about Guzman Todd or any other affairs he may have had.
"I have taken responsibility for the hurt that I've caused in my personal life. I've apologized for it," he said. "This campaign is about more than just me. ... North Carolinians are looking for somebody who's going to take on the monumental challenges in front of us."
But reporters put a question to Cunningham four times about whether he was involved with any other women, and he refused to answer directly every time.
"Let me very clear, I'm hearing from North Carolinians that are telling me in no uncertain terms that they want their Senate candidate talking about issues," he said. "People are tired of hearing about personal issues. They want somebody focused on them. They want somebody who's going to be a champion for the things that matter in their lives."
Each time, Cunningham pivoted to attack his opponent in the upcoming election, Republican Sen. Thom Tillis.
"He wants to talk about this rather than his failed record," he said of Tillis. "What North Carolinians want is a Senate candidate and a senator who will focus on their issues. ... Thom Tillis doesn't want to talk about that. So, of course, he's going to want to talk about my personal life. I'm going to stay focused on North Carolinians."
"Cal Cunningham's refusal to answer questions makes him unfit for office," Tillis campaign manager Luke Blanchat said in a statement. "North Carolinians deserve a full explanation from Cunningham on his misconduct, which he is clearly unwilling to provide."
North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin responded by saying the campaign is about bigger issues.
"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 pre-existing conditions and enabled this administration's bungled response to this pandemic," Goodwin said in a statement.
The Army Reserve said Wednesday that it has opened an investigation into Cunningham, who is a lieutenant colonel in the Reserve. Officials didn't say whether it was linked to his affair with Guzman Todd, but the move came a day after she confirmed the affair.