James “Cal” Cunningham, the Democrat challenging Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis in North Carolina, issued an apology Wednesday night over an alleged affair and sexting scandal that came to light as the state’s residents prepare to vote.
“I am deeply sorry for the hurt that I have caused in my personal life and I also apologize to all of you,” Cunningham said in a statement that was live-streamed during a previously scheduled awards event.
“I hope all of you watching at home will accept this sincere apology and that we will continue to work together to change the direction of our country and strengthen our state.”
Cunningham’s video statement marked his first public appearance since a married California woman claimed she had an affair with the married candidate, a father of two children, and sexual messages between them were published, the News & Observer of Raleigh reported.
ARMY RESERVE INVESTIGATING NC’S CUNNINGHAM AFTER STEAMY TEXT MESSAGES SURFACE: REPORT
The candidate’s remarks, posted on Facebook, included his assertion that the accusations against him were an attempt by the Tillis campaign to distract voters, the newspaper reported.
“Because Thom Tillis knows that he is losing and knows that we are winning, he has now resorted to trying to make this campaign about something other than the issues,” Cunningham said. “But we know, I know, this campaign is about your hopes and your dreams.
“I will not get sidetracked, and I hope you won’t either,” he added.
Earlier Wednesday, Cunningham, 47, who is a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, spoke to a local TV station just hours after the military said it was investigating the Democrat for unspecified reasons, The Associated Press reported.
“I’ve made it clear that I’ve hurt my family and that I’ve disappointed my supporters, and I’m taking responsibility for that,” he told Raleigh-Durham’s WNCN-TV, after being located in the parking lot of a coffee shop.
“I’m very clear that this campaign isn’t about my personal life; it’s about the people of North Carolina; it’s about the issues that are important to North Carolinians, and that’s what I’m staying focused on.”
Also Wednesday, the Army veteran husband of the woman allegedly involved in the affair with Cunningham called for the Democrat to withdraw from the U.S. Senate race.
“If elected, I can only imagine how misplaced his judgment would be for the people he’s charged to represent,” the veteran, Jeremy Todd, said in a statement obtained by the News & Observer. “I firmly believe Mr. Cunningham should drop out of the Senate race and ask that his behavior and actions be reviewed under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”
On Wednesday the Cunningham campaign also said the candidate planned to cooperate with the Army Reserve investigation.
“Cal will participate in this process, but it does not change the stakes of this election or the need for new leaders who will fight for the issues North Carolinians care about instead of caving to the corporate special interests – which is exactly what Senator [Thom] Tillis has done in his years in Washington,” a Cunningham campaign spokesperson said.
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
The Army Reserve confirmed its investigation was underway but would not disclose details.
“The Army Reserve is investigating the matters involving Lt. Col. James Cunningham. As such, we are unable to provide further details at this time,” Simon B. Flake, a spokesman for the Army Reserve Strategic Communications, told North Carolina outlet WRAL-TV on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed Cunningham leading Tillis, 47% to 42%, in voter support – but the poll emerged prior to Tillis’ confirmed case of coronavirus and details about the Cunningham scandal.
Tillis said Tuesday on “Fox & Friends” that Cunningham owes voters a full explanation for his actions.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.