Politics

South Carolina Blogger Who Worked for Sanford Claims Affair With Gubernatorial Candidate

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- A political blogger claimed Monday that he had an affair several years ago with a married Republican vying to become the state's first female governor.

The candidate, Rep. Nikki Haley, vehemently denied the allegation, made in a post on blogger Will Folks' website that contained no proof of a relationship. Haley called the claim a "disgraceful smear" planted to derail her campaign, which has gained steam from high-powered endorsements, including one from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

"I have been 100 percent faithful to my husband throughout our 13 years of marriage. This claim against me is categorically and totally false," Haley, a 38-year-old mother of two, said in a statement. "It is quite simply South Carolina politics at its worst."

The allegation comes nearly a year after Gov. Mark Sanford famously vanished from the state for five days, reappearing to admit to an affair with a woman he later called his "soul mate." The scandal ended Sanford's marriage and led to calls for his resignation. He is term-limited and leaves office in January; in years past he had backed Haley's political aspirations, and his ex-wife campaigned with her earlier this month.

Folks said in a blog post that he went public about the purported affair with Haley because political adversaries were leaking proof of it to mainstream media outlets to impugn his reputation and destroy her.

"The truth in this case is what it is," he wrote. "Several years ago, prior to my marriage, I had an inappropriate physical relationship with Nikki."

Folks, a former Sanford spokesman, is a political consultant who now runs FITSNews.com, a conservative site that features occasionally insightful commentary, thinly sourced stories of state political intrigue and photos of women in bikinis. It refers to him as "Sic Willie," sports the tag line "Unfair. Imbalanced," and often promotes Haley's campaign.

Haley is one of four Republicans seeking the party's gubernatorial nomination and the one whose views most closely reflect the tea party movement's. The primary is June 8.