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Fact Check: In Debate, Tillis Again Says Cunningham Supports Medicare For All. Does He?

Democrat Cal Cunningham said Wednesday that Thom Tillis is making "false attacks" in saying he supports Medicare for All.

Health care is one of the most important issues in this year’s U.S. Senate race between Republican incumbent Thom Tillis and Democrat Cal Cunningham. And in Tuesday night's debate, Tillis again made this allegation:   

“Cal’s promising Medicare for All, which will be Medicare for None,” he said.

And Cunningham responded.

“Sure, let me be very clear,” Cunningham said. “Sen. Tillis is once against mischaracterizing my position. I don’t support Medicare for All.”

During the campaign – going back to 2019 – Cunningham has been consistent in saying he wants to expand the Affordable Care Act rather than enacting Medicare for All, the favored position of more liberal Democrats.

So where did the allegation come from?

Its origins go back to this winter, when Cunningham was running against State Sen. Erica Smith in the Democratic primary.

In an effort to undermine Cunningham, a Florida group called the Faith and Power PAC ran TV ads praising Smith, saying she was the more progressive candidate.The Senate Leadership Fund – aligned with U.S. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell -- financially supported Faith and Power.

Having a party meddle in the primary of another party is unusual, but not unprecedented. Democrats have done it too.

An excerpt from that ad said, “Who will vote for the Green New Deal? Erica Smith. Not Cal Cunningham. Who will vote for Medicare for all? Erica Smith. Not Cal Cunningham.”

That’s true, based on what Cunningham has said.

But the ad then suggested that Cunningham wouldn’t stand up for LGBTQ rights and wouldn’t fight the NRA.

Cunningham said those parts of the Faith and Power ad weren’t true. He responded with his own ad.

“I’m Cal Cunningham, and I want you to hear directly from me about these deceptive ads attacking my values. They’re just not true,” he said in the ad.


Cunningham was talking about gun control and LGBTQ rights – not Medicare for All. But since Cunningham said the ad wasn’t true, the Republican party concluded everything in the ad wasn’t true.

And the Tillis campaign has been arguing ever since that Cunningham admitted to supporting Medicare for All.

Cunningham campaign said Wednesday that “Tillis is recycling the same tired false attacks to distract from his own record of blocking Medicaid expansion in North Carolina” and voting to take “protections away from 1.7 million North Carolinians living with pre-existing conditions.” 

Go behind the headlines with WFAE political reporter Steve Harrison in his weekly newsletter, Inside Politics. Steve will provide insight about and analysis of local and statewide politics. Readers will gain an understanding of political news on the horizon and why it matters. 


Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.