S.C. governor admits straying in Argentina
S.C. governor’s career launched by wife he betrayed
When South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford cheated on his wife, he also betrayed his top political adviser.
First lady Jenny Sanford told the world in a statement Wednesday that she had sent her husband packing nearly 15 years after she launched his political career.
Mark Sanford apologized to her and their four sons at a tearful press conference where he admitted a yearlong affair with a friend in Argentina whom he had visited on a secret trip.
His wife said in her own statement later that she kicked him out of the house two weeks ago and asked him not to speak to her while she tried to come to grips with his infidelity.
It was an abrupt and stunning — even if temporary — split for a couple who helped shape the state’s political landscape.
During Mark Sanford’s first gubernatorial campaign in 2002, Jenny ran the show from the basement of their Sullivans Island beach house while he fretted as the wind blew his charts off of tripods during outdoor press conferences. She spoke in April at the Dole Institute of Politics at Kansas University in a panel discussion titled “First Spouses: Changing Roles and Expectations.”
Columbia, S.C. ? After going AWOL for seven days, Gov. Mark Sanford admitted Wednesday that he had secretly flown to Argentina to visit a woman with whom he was having an affair. Wiping away tears, he apologized to his family and gave up a national Republican Party post, but was silent on whether he would resign.
“I’ve been unfaithful to my wife,” he said in a news conference in which the 49-year-old governor ruminated on God’s law, moral absolutes and following one’s heart. He said he spent the last five days “crying in Argentina.”
Sanford, who in recent months had been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2012, said he would resign as head of the Republican Governors Association.
By leaving the country without formally transferring power, critics said he neglected his gubernatorial authority and put the state at risk. It wasn’t clear how his staff could reach him in an emergency.
At least one state lawmaker called for his resignation. As a congressman, Sanford voted in favor of three of four articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton, citing the need for “moral legitimacy.”
The affair is now over, Sanford said, describing the woman who lives in Argentina as a “dear, dear friend” whom he has known for about eight years and been romantically involved with for about a year. He said he has seen her three times since the affair began, and his wife found out about it five months ago. A newspaper published steamy e-mails between Sanford and the woman. He did not identify her.
“What I did was wrong. Period,” he said. His family did not attend the news conference, and his wife, Jenny Sanford, said she asked the governor to leave and stop speaking to her two weeks ago. The governor said he wants to reconcile, and his wife’s statement said her husband has earned a chance to resurrect their marriage.
“This trial separation was agreed to with the goal of ultimately strengthening our marriage,” she said.
Sanford denied instructing his staff to cover up his affair, but acknowledged that he told them he thought he would be hiking on the Appalachian Trail and never corrected that impression after leaving for South America.
“I let them down by creating a fiction with regard to where I was going,” Sanford said. “I said that was the original possibility. Again, this is my fault in … shrouding this larger trip.”
Questions about Sanford’s whereabouts arose early this week. For two days after reporters started asking questions, his office had said he had gone hiking on the trail.
Cornered at the Atlanta airport by a reporter from The State newspaper, Sanford revealed Wednesday morning that he had gone to Argentina for a seven-day trip.