Sanford admits to a love affair with an Argentine woman. 'The bottom line is this: I've been unfaithful to my wife.' He apologizes to his family and the people of South Carolina.
By Michael Muskal
11:52 AM PDT, June 24, 2009
South Carolina's wandering governor, Mark Sanford, said today he had an affair with an Argentine woman and that was why he disappeared without telling anyone he went to South America.
"The bottom line is this: I've been unfaithful to my wife," he said. "I've developed a relationship with a dear dear friend from Argentina."
Speaking at a nationally televised news conference, Sanford apologized to his wife, his four boys, his family and the people of South Carolina for his disappearance and for leaving his staff and family to make up excuses for his absence. Sanford's staff had insisted at one point that he was off hiking on the Appalachian Trail.
"There are moral absolutes," said Sanford, one of a cast of possible GOP presidential aspirants.
The announcement was the latest development in the bizarre case of Sanford's disappearance on June 18. It was unclear whether Sanford's comments would placate his critics, who have been up in arms.
Among the questions have been why didn't he tell other officials that he would be out of pocket? Why didn't he tell his family? Why did his top aides finally say that he was hiking, only to be left with egg on their faces when he surfaced after a trip to Argentina?
"All we've had is lies, lies, lies," South Carolina state Sen. John Knotts said in a televised news conference earlier today. There have been "coverups where the governor is and where the governor is not," Sanford's fellow Republican said.
"I don't have a problem with the governor taking some time off," Knotts said. "But the people in South Carolina need to know that somebody is at the helm, not just a staffer."
Because of his presidential aspirations, Sanford has been one of the frequent targets of the national Democratic Party, which has trumpeted his disappearance since June 18 as an example of erratic behavior. Sanford was a visible opponent of President's Obama's economic stimulus package, at one point insisting he wouldn't accept the $700 million set aside for his state. Sanford was forced to relent after opponents won in court.
Sanford, 49, arrived at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport this morning and told the State newspaper that he had wanted a break after the pressures of a tough South Carolina legislative session. He said he had considered hiking the Appalachian Trail but changed his mind at the last minute and went to Buenos Aires.
"I wanted to do something exotic," Sanford explained earlier, before admitting the affair, calling Buenos Aires "a great city."
The problem is that word of the trip never got to aides or even his family. In recent days, South Carolina's lieutenant governor, nominally in charge with the governor out of the state, said he had no idea where Sanford was. Sanford's wife, Jenny, said she had no idea where the governor was but insisted she wasn't worried.
"He was writing something and wanted some space to get away from the kids," she told the Associated Press before heading off with their four sons to the family's Sullivan's Island home -- over Father's Day weekend.
Sanford's staff stuck by the hiking story, saying the governor was somewhere along the 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail and couldn't be reached even by cellphone. Aides this morning have refused to discuss the matter.
Heading to South Carolina from Georgia this morning, Sanford said: "I don't know how this thing got blown out of proportion."
Sanford has been a colorful figure on the South Carolina political scene. He once put a spending clock outside his office to illustrate how quickly a proposed budget would spend state money. He also brought pigs to the House chamber to protest pork he said lawmakers had put in a budget.
Still, Sanford has been a well-respected governor, head of the Republican Governors Assn. and a strong conservative among those who are potential 2012 GOP presidential aspirants.
The presidential sweepstakes has been less than charitable to Republicans so far. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal saw his stock drop after a disastrous television appearance; Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has been embroiled in feuds with her state legislators and with late-night talk-show host David Letterman; Nevada Sen. John Ensign admitted he had an extramarital affair; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was forced to back step after he used the word "racist" to describe Sonia Sotomayor, a nominee for the Supreme Court.
Sandford's disclosure comes the same month that another Republican, Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, revealed that he also had had an extramarital affair.
I cannot wait to get home tonight and see what Keith/Rachel/Jon/Stephen are going to do to this guy.