Sarah Palin, showing no qualms about stepping into the thicket of state politics, rushed to the defense of South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley after a blogger claimed he had an "inappropriate physical relationship" with her.
The former Alaska governor had endorsed Haley, a Republican state representative and Tea Party favorite, and used her Facebook page Monday to defend the married mother of two children. Palin slammed blogger Will Folks, who used to work as a communications consultant for Haley, for leveling the charge and then refusing to answer questions about it.
"Well, whaddya know? South Carolina's conservative candidate, Nikki Haley, recently zipped to the front of the line in her state's race for governor; and lo and behold, now accusations of an affair surface," Palin wrote. "Nikki categorically denies the accusation that was spewed out there by a political blogger who has the gall to throw the stone, but then quickly duck and hide and proclaim he would not comment further on the issue. Quite convenient."
Palin said she warned Haley that "she would be targeted" and "she would be put through some hell" in her race.
"That, unfortunately, is the nature of the beast in politics today -- especially for conservative 'underdog' candidates who surge in the polls and threaten to shake things up so government can be put back on the side of the people," Palin wrote. "South Carolina: don't let some blogger make any accusation against your Nikki if the guy doesn't even have the guts or the integrity to speak further on such a significant claim."
Folks said in a blog that he went public about the purported affair with Haley because political adversaries were leaking proof of it to 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."
In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press prior to his blog post, Folks would not discuss details of the relationship. Folks wrote Monday that he would not give any additional interviews, but later in the day told the AP that he was not working for any campaign.
Folks pleaded guilty to criminal domestic violence in 2005 and is now a political consultant. Folks' allegation comes nearly a year after Gov. Mark Sanford admitted to having an affair, and two weeks before the June 14 primary, a four-way contest that includes a congressman, the lieutenant governor and the state attorney general.
Haley, who has also been endorsed by former South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford, said the attack was a distraction to the race.
"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."
In her Facebook posting, Palin urged Haley to "hang in there," citing her experiences in the political limelight.
"I've been there. Any lies told about you will strengthen your resolve to clean up political and media corruption," she wrote, describing a conversation she had with Haley Monday morning.
"Reaching her from Wasilla, I then joked with Nikki that I was calling her from one of the many locations the lamestream media claims I moved to. (Let's see, I think the last I heard I was living in the Hamptons, or was it Montana? No, supposedly L.A. is where they claim I moved when I 'left Todd' in their idiotic reports.) South Carolina friends, don't let 'em just make things up."
A former Sanford spokesman, Folks left the governor's administration in 2005, around the same time he pleaded guilty to the domestic violence charge and received a 30-day suspended sentence. Folks kicked open the door at a home he shared with a lobbyist and shoved her into a piece of furniture, police said.
Folks had little political experience before joining Sanford's 2002 campaign. When Sanford won, the governor made the ball-cap wearing, alternative rock band-playing son of a college professor his spokesman.
Haley, an accountant and three-term legislator, is in a tight race for the GOP nomination with Congressman Gresham Barrett, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer and Attorney General Henry McMaster.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.