Former Military Lawyer: Cal Cunningham’s Affair a ‘Public Disgrace of the Army’s Uniform’

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cal Cunningham speaks to supporters during a primary election night party in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday, March 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
AP Photo/Gerry Broome

Former Marine military lawyer Col. (Ret.) Charles Jones urged voters in a local North Carolina newspaper column to hold North Carolina U.S. Senate candidate Cal Cunningham accountable for his extramarital affair, calling it “inexcusable” and a “public disgrace of the uniform.”

Cunningham, 47, is a U.S. Army Reserve lieutenant colonel who made his military record a key part of his campaign to replace Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC). At least one extramarital affair has come to light, however, with a disabled combat veteran’s wife, a public relations executive named Arlene Guzman Todd. Cunningham and Guzman Todd exchanged text messages of a sexual nature, and later, Guzman Todd admitted to at least one in-person encounter as recently as July in Cunningham’s family home.

Jones said that during his 30-year career as a military judge advocate, he was involved in investigating and adjudicating cases of officer misconduct under the Uniform Code of Military justice, and that he found Cunningham’s affair “offensive in four dimensions.”

He wrote Monday in the Greensboro News & Record

One is legal — he violated Article 133 of the UCMJ by sending sexual text messages to a woman who is not his wife. If he had sex with the woman, he possibly violated Article 134’s prohibition against adultery.

Two, his misconduct set a poor example for juniors. Officers are held to a higher standard than enlisted members and are expected to lead enlisted and officer subordinates by example.

Three is the crimes: sex-related. No military crime is higher-profile today than one involving consensual or nonconsensual sex. Sexual misconduct acceptable 20 or 30 years ago in a military managed by “good old boys” is now unacceptable. Do we need a senator with such poor judgment?

Four is home. Mrs. Cunningham cannot be happy, but domestic repercussions of misconduct are not within the UCMJ’s reach. They are matters for separation and divorce proceedings since the UCMJ pertains exclusively to criminal law. Domestic law is in state statutes and judicial opinions.

Jones said if voters do not hold Cunningham accountable, they would “make a mockery of the special trust and confidence Cunningham had as an officer.”

Cunningham has apologized for the text messages, and has refused to discuss whether there were more women, calling it a personal matter.

Jones wrote: “Apologies such as Cunningham’s are pro forma: meaningless and not a legal defense of his misconduct. His conduct is not a private matter if the Army is investigating it; it is a public disgrace of the Army’s uniform.”

He also criticized those who will vote for Cunningham in hopes of Democrats winning back the Senate.

“They can have one if they please, yet voting for someone who should have embodied the high standards of military officership — but who deliberately failed to do so — is a reprehensible way to obtain a Senate majority,” he wrote.

Jones’s op-ed comes on the same day four U.S. Army veterans criticized Cunningham in a new Tillis campaign ad.


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