South Carolina's Tea Party sex scandal
A conservative South Carolina politics blogger is claiming he had an "inappropriate physical relationship" with Nikki Haley, the "Tea Party favorite" in that state's competitive GOP gubernatorial primary. Haley is denying the allegation. (Watch Nikki Haley deny the claims.) Here's a concise look at the still-murky situation:
What's the allegation?
Will Folks, a politics blogger and former spokesman for confessed adulterer Gov. Mark Sanford, says that "several years ago, prior to my marriage, I had an inappropriate physical relationship with Nikki [Haley]" — a state legislator who was, and remains, married. He says he is going public now because a "network of operatives" bent on "taking down" Haley has begun leaking details of the affair to members of the media. "[But] I will not be discussing the details of that relationship, nor will I be granting any additional interviews about it," writes Folks. A subsequent, unsigned post on his blog suggests there are "several years' worth of phone records, text messages, e-mails and voice mails" backing up his claim.
What's Haley's reaction?
That Folks' "disgraceful smear" is "categorically and totally false." She suggests it is no coincidence that the allegation is emerging now, just two weeks before the GOP primary and one week after a Rasmussen poll named her the frontrunner in the race. "I have been 100 percent faithful to my husband throughout our 13 years of marriage," she says.
Is there any known connection between Folks and Haley?
Yes. Folks did political consulting for Haley's state House campaign in 2007 — when he says the affair took place — and 2008. Financial records show that Haley paid Folks' firm $3,530 in 2007 and $1,310 in 2008. Folks has admired Haley on his blog, writing in 2008 that she is "hot as hell," and: "We're frequently accused of showing a little too much love to S.C. Rep. Nikki Haley, to which we can only say 'we wish' (ba doom ching)."
Are allies standing by her?
Yes, at least for now. Haley's most prominent backer, Sarah Palin, quickly defended her on Facebook, and Sanford's ex-wife, Jenny Sanford, is sticking by her, too. State GOP chairwoman Karen Floyd, officially neutral in the Republican primary race, called Folks' allegation "internet rumor mongering" and said she'd defend any of the candidates from "unsubstantiated personal attacks."
Why would Folks lie?
"Folks doesn't enjoy the best reputation in terms of that blog," says longtime South Carolina political analyst Neal Thigpen. "Most times there isn't a whole lot of truth to what he puts out there." Folks also "has plenty of bad blood with the Sanfords — Jenny never liked him," says Ben Domenech in The New Ledger, "and it wouldn’t surprise me if this is part of his motivation for making this claim, or if he were doing the bidding of one of Haley’s opponents."
So why would anyone believe him?
For one thing, Folks is backing Haley's candidacy, says Alex Pareene in Salon. Also, despite Palin's insinuations, "he didn't spread a rumor of an affair, he said he was the other party in the affair. This is more like Rielle Hunter blogging that she slept with John Edwards before the Enquirer could report it, only Folks seems slightly more credible than Hunter."