August 12th, 2009
08:01 AM ET
5 years ago

Sanford defends expensive travel, denies divorce

Sanford flew in style on two international flights in 2006 and 2007.
Sanford flew in style on two international flights in 2006 and 2007.

(CNN) – South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford defended his trips on expensive international flights on Tuesday and said that a state Senate probe into his foreign travel is driven by a politically-motivated "feeding frenzy."

Sanford also told reporters that he and his wife Jenny - who moved out of the governor's mansion in Columbia last week - are not getting a divorce.

Sanford's travel has come under increased scrutiny since he admitted an extramarital affair with an Argentine woman in June. A state law enforcement probe in June found that the governor did not use state money while carrying on his affair.

But on Monday, Republican state Sen. David Thomas concluded an investigation that found Sanford violated South Carolina regulations by billing the state for business and first-class seats on international flights during trade missions in 2006 and 2007. South Carolina law requires state officials to purchase seats for the lowest available fare. Thomas told CNN that Sanford's actions could be grounds for impeachment when the legislative session begins in January.

Sanford, speaking to reporters after a cabinet meeting Tuesday, said that the state Department of Commerce purchases tickets and argued that other South Carolina governors had flown business and first class when traveling overseas in the past. He said that if Thomas was really concerned about his travel practices, he should have called the governor's office instead of simply releasing the results of his investigation to the media.

"I did wrong, I messed up and there are consequences for that," Sanford said, referring to his affair. "But at some point it gets to the point of the absurd, where in political terms people smell blood in the water, and they keep coming and coming and coming."

Sanford contended that flying business class on international flights allowed him to rest before important meetings set up to attract business to the state. "Did folks really want this governor or some other governor to fly in, go to some meetings in Rome, and look haggard in the process?," he asked.

The embattled governor also responded to an Associated Press investigation that revealed he used state planes for personal and political travel within South Carolina. Sanford said he has flown on state planes less than previous administrations. "We're not perfect," he said.

He said that some taxpayer-funded travel may have appeared personal, because he often tried to include his four boys on trips when it fit with his official schedule.

Sanford said that some of the claims in the story - for example, that he took a flight from Myrtle Beach to Columbia simply to get a haircut - were taken out of the context of his full daily schedule. He noted that he went to get the haircut not at a fancy salon, but at the chain "Great Clips."

Towards the end of the press conference a reporter asked if he and his wife were getting a divorce.

Sanford said no.


Filed under: Mark Sanford • South Carolina
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