The media is in a moralistic mood these days, calling the president and other COVID-infected Republicans “irresponsible” and “reckless.” But the media is less keen to moralize about a Democrat caught in adultery. In North Carolina, Cal Cunningham, the Democratic Senate candidate, is hoping reporters will avert their gaze from his growing sexting scandal. So far it appears that many are obliging him.
“Cal owes the people of North Carolina a full explanation. On the debate stage last week, Cal said it’s about integrity and I agree. His family should be kept private, he’s got teenage children but Cal owes North Carolinians, all of the voters a full and thorough explanation,” said Thom Tillis, his Republican opponent, on Fox News.
Cunningham has gone quiet. He pulled out of a town hall on Monday, amidst reports that he cheated not only on his wife but also his mistress. A “second mistress” may emerge, reports Patrick Howley:
North Carolina-based lawyer Erin Brinkman stated on Facebook that her friend has been having an affair with married Democrat North Carolina Senate candidate Cal Cunningham, a married father of two, since 2012.
The friend was reportedly “devastated” upon finding out that Cunningham is involved in a romantic relationship with another woman, the wife of a U.S. Army veteran, named Arlene Guzman Todd, after National File’s reporting.
Now, Brinkman, a criminal justice lawyer who graduated from Harvard and spent time in North Carolina, says she has a “good friend” who has been in an affair with Cunningham since 2012. Brinkman previously worked on Cunningham’s failed 2010 U.S. Senate campaign.
“He’s been having an affair with a good friend of mine since 2012. Not the woman mentioned in the story. Needless to say, my friend was devastated. But my feeling is, if they’ll cheat WITH you, they’ll cheat ON you!,” Brinkman writes on Facebook. Brinkman does not appear to be partisan, as her Facebook page features a John F. Kennedy quote stating, “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer.”
Last week it came out that Cunningham had been sexting Todd, a lobbyist for a medical marijuana company, thus complicating his campaign pitch as an upstanding former soldier. “Cal Cunningham, who is a married father of two, has focused his U.S. Senate campaign against Republican Thom Tillis on Cunningham’s service as a veteran in Iraq and Afghanistan. But Cunningham is evidently engaged in extramarital activity with the wife of a fellow veteran,” reported Howley.
Cunningham’s epistolary exchanges weren’t exactly Byronic, according to Howley:
Cunningham refers to Guzman Todd in the text messages below as “historically sexy,” imagines kissing her, says he has been dreaming “of our time together,” and the two plan for Cunningham to make up an excuse for his family and ditch a staffer so the two can meet and, in Guzman Todd’s words, “kiss a lot.” Guzman Todd says she wants “a night with you” and Cunningham agrees that he wants that too. Guzman Todd says that “the only thing I want on my to do list is you” and Cunningham says that “Sounds so hot and so fun!”
According to Reuters, the latest polling has Cunningham leading Tillis by five points. But will Cunningham’s lead last? The race, according to North Carolina pundits, has been thrown into “chaos.” “I was saying that something big would have to change for Cunningham to not be the favorite and clearly the question is, is this that thing?” said Chris Cooper, the head of the political science department at Western Carolina University, to the Raleigh News & Observer.
In another development last week, Tillis announced that he tested positive for coronavirus and would go into quarantine. The New York Times treated the news as a problem equal to Cunningham’s:
But taken together, Mr. Cunningham’s scandal and Mr. Tillis’s diagnosis have upended the critical race just a month before Election Day, laying waste to both candidates’ core messages just as they were preparing to make their final appeals to voters.
But judging from all the harrumphing about Trump over the weekend — the dissolute Carl Bernstein called Trump’s alleged recklessness “homicidal” — coronavirus would appear to trump adultery in seriousness, according to the media’s moral calculus. A suddenly priggish press looks more eager to place a scarlet C on Tillis than an A on Cunningham.