Date of Graduation

8-2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Journalism (MA)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Journalism

Advisor

Larry Foley

Committee Member

Dale Carpenter

Second Committee Member

Rob Wells

Keywords

History, Military, Political Corruption, Politics

Abstract

This short documentary film is about one man’s ascent, descent and redemption for making an extremely poor personal decision that has impacted his entire adult life. Randall “Duke” Cunningham, 76, is a former U.S. Republican Congressman from California who was sentenced in 2005 to more than eight years in prison for accepting bribes totaling $2.4 million and tax evasion. He was released from an Arizona prison in 2013 and moved to Hot Springs Village, Arkansas because he had a brother and sister-in-law who lived there and they could assist him in getting settled. He said the area was quiet and remote and he could begin writing books. This is Cunningham’s only on-camera interview about his life since his prison release, June 4, 2013. This documentary has a basic two-pronged approach: past and present. The past includes a recap of his accomplishments as an educator, officer and pilot in the U.S. Navy, one of the most highly decorated pilots in the Vietnam War, 14-year politician, and convicted felon. The present is about Cunningham rebuilding his personal life. He receives two pensions and makes a monthly payment toward a court-ordered restitution of $1.8 million. His wife of 40 years divorced him, much of his family has disowned him and he has relied on a new environment, new friends and volunteering to help cope with his misdeeds. The documentary tracks how he is coping, involvement in politics and interviews with his inner-circle which includes his pastor, realtor, firefighters, and Tea Party proponents. The goal of this documentary is to better understand how political corruption got in the way of a heroic life.

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