Opinion: South Carolina’s Nikki Haley denies affair with former aide to Gov. Sanford; Palin defends her

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We will leave for another day the question of what’s in the water in South Carolina. Allegations of sexual affairs are slung so often that perhaps the state should consider bottling its water as an aphrodisiac. It could ease a lot of deficit woes.

The current allegations come from Will Folks, a former spokesman for Gov. Mark Sanford, dubbed ‘the luv guv’ for the fling with an Argentinian woman that blew up his marriage to First Lady Jenny Sanford and prompted her to move out of the governor’s mansion with their four sons.

Now a blogger whose website promises political coverage that is ‘unfair and imbalanced,’ Folks alleges that state Rep. Nikki Haley, who is now running for governor and is a married mother of two, had ‘an inappropriate physical relationship’ with him several years ago.

With two weeks to go before the June 8 elections, Haley is leading a four-way race for the Republican nomination for governor. According to a Rasmussen poll, Haley has 30% of the vote, to 19% for Atty. Gen. Henry McMaster, 19% for Rep. Gresham Barrett and 12% for Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer.


So Haley wasted no time firing back. She said Folks, a former campaign consultant, is lying.

As the Charleston Post and Courier put it, ‘Somebody’s lying.’

When former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin endorsed Haley, it galvanized the ‘tea party’ conservatives to the side of a candidate who until then had been considered a long-shot, though she was endorsed by Jenny Sanford. Palin warned her then to expect dirty tricks.

‘I warned her and her family that she would be targeted because she’s a threat to a corrupt political machine, and she would be put through some hell,’ Palin wrote on her Facebook page.

Whether Folks actually had an affair with Haley or is burnishing his reputation as a less-than-reliable source is impossible to know. What is clear from his writing is that Folks may have wanted to have an affair with Haley, writing in a 2008 entry that the state representative was ‘hot as hell.’

Either way, Haley is cognizant of the potential damage -- and the need to respond quickly. As she told WVOC radio, ‘They unleashed a tiger.’

-- Johanna Neuman

U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett during a debate on May 3. Credit: Associated Press

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