Amanda Cunningham (copy)

Amanda Cunningham talks about how life has changed since her husband, Rep. Joe Cunningham, was elected to Congress last November. File/Brad Nettles/Staff

Talk about bad optics.

The video posted by the wife of Charleston's Democratic congressman Joe Cunningham was a self-described "rant" about Congress' health care plan.

It didn't cover her therapy sessions, she lamented, or their marriage counseling.

While it was only a minute long, it was long enough to be weaponized by Republicans.

Sitting on the floor and talking directly to the camera, Amanda Cunningham posted on Instagram her dissatisfaction with the health care coverage that comes with being a member of Congress (salary $174,000 a year).

She showed some Blue Cross/Blue Shield paperwork and pointed out that her therapy sessions were denied, as was the couple's marriage counseling, something they do to strengthen their bond, her posts indicate.

"It's just mind-blowing to me," she said, "that these basic, well-known needs, that mental health is health care, are still being denied. That we're still fighting for these absolutely basic things."

She added, “So I’m reaching out to my congressman — yes, also my husband — but saying, like, hey, what can we do about this? Like, let’s go to the House floor, let’s write a bill, let's, I don’t know what you do, but let’s do it because this is ridiculous.

“This affects us, our family. It affects everyone else who’s seeking mental health and needs support doing so,” she said. “I’m just flabbergasted.”

It was her rant, but the Republican-fueled backlash fell on her politician husband.

"Joe Cunningham hasn’t said a word about it," Camile Gallo, regional press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said afterward in an email blast.

"Does this mean he believes taxpayers should pay for his marriage counseling and his wife’s therapy sessions, too?" 

Cunningham is a freshman in one of the most precarious positions of any Democrat seeking re-election in 2020. He'll try to defend the coastal 1st Congressional District seat that had been held by Republicans for nearly 40 years before his upset win last year.

Having their spouse vent about the inadequacies of Congress' health care plan is probably not what any incumbent wants to see in an opponent's campaign ad.

Though the Instagram post disappeared after 24 hours, it lives on through GOP and conservative web searches.  

For his part, Cunningham said he didn't know his wife was going to take to social media to unload.

"It's 2019," he told Palmetto Politics. "My wife doesn't come to me and ask permission for things she posts or emails she writes."

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For the record, Cunningham isn't going to offer legislation seeking a change in Congress' coverage, his office said, and that he does not support having taxpayer-subsidized health plans like his cover marriage and mental health counseling. 

“Joe and Amanda are grateful to have great health care for themselves and their son Boone," said spokeswoman Rebecca Drago. "They agree with the majority of South Carolinians that private insurers should offer more comprehensive coverage, including more coverage for mental health, and they understand the deep frustration that many folks have with their insurance, including unexpected and surprise billing."

Cunningham also said the potential political use of his wife's comments is part of the reason people are sick of today's politics.

Spouses have always walked an odd line in South Carolina politics, and even more so now in the age of social media. When they leave traditionally defined lanes, there's always the chance of criticism.

Jenny Sanford became a target when she managed then-husband Mark Sanford's multiple races for governor and Congress.

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg is facing his own re-election year amid scrutiny from antagonistic members of City Council because of business cards he had printed with his wife Sandy’s name, contact information and the city seal on the back.

Amanda Cunningham chose not to comment Friday. She has spoken of her anxiety and "mom guilt" issues in the past.

Expect more debate on the extent of health care coverage as 2020 moves in.

Editor's note: after online publication, a line emphasizing Cunningham's position on marriage and mental health coverage was added.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 843-937-5551. Follow him on Twitter at @skropf47.

Political Editor

Schuyler Kropf is The Post and Courier political editor. He has covered every major political race in South Carolina dating to 1988, including for U.S. Senate, governorship, the Statehouse and Republican and Democratic presidential primaries.