February 5th, 2010
05:43 PM ET
4 years ago

Jenny Sanford: Husband became 'empty-eyed politician'

Jenny Sanford's memoir hit bookstores Friday.
Jenny Sanford's memoir hit bookstores Friday.

(CNN) – When South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford returned to the United States last June from Buenos Aires, where he had been having one last secret tryst with his Argentine mistress, he hopped in a vehicle driven by a former aide who had sped through the night to meet him at the Atlanta airport.

Sanford was on his way back to Columbia, to appear before a phalanx of reporters and television cameras to explain to South Carolina and the nation why he had mysteriously disappeared from the state a week earlier.

But first, he had to call and check in with his trusted political adviser - who also happened to be the wife he had betrayed.

"Do you know what kind of storm you are returning to?" an incredulous Jenny Sanford said she asked her husband. "And where do we stand?"

Her husband told her the "good news": the affair, which Jenny Sanford had discovered the previous January, was finally over after a year. "I told you, it's all behind us," he explained. "Everything's good."

"Good?" Sanford writes in her new memoir, "Staying True," which landed in bookstores Friday. "What part of this did he think was good?"

Mark Sanford's office had no comment on the book.

Chris Allen, the aide who sat alone in the car with Sanford as he spoke to his furious wife on the phone, told CNN in an e-mail Friday that the long drive to Columbia was "awkward, emotional, almost fictitious, and at this point a blur."

Allen also remembers that in the following days he witnessed an outpouring of support from the people closest to the Sanfords. "Days like that cause people to forget about the political and concentrate solely on the personal," he wrote in the e-mail.

That's the story Jenny Sanford attempts to tell in the much-anticipated memoir, a book peppered with Bible verse and anecdotes about the strength and inspiration derived from friends and family in the face of astonishing personal upheaval.

But the book also reveals that Jenny Sanford, despite her famous refusal to play the role of loyal spouse in the aftermath of the affair, may have invested too much of herself in her husband and his never-ending political pursuits. Though she maintains that she loved him despite his flaws, she writes painfully of the strain his busy public career put on their marriage and wonders if she should have ended their relationship years earlier.

As the Republican governor rose in national prominence and drew mention as a potential White House contender - most famously during his fight against the stimulus bill last year - Jenny Sanford wrote that he was consumed with "unquenchable ambition" and had become "the empty-eyed politician he used to abhor."

Jenny Sanford, her critics suggest, was a knowing partner to that personality change. Since her days managing his first campaign for the House, she developed a reputation in Columbia as a savvy political operator and controller of her husband's image.

In the tumultuous weeks following Mark Sanford's admission last summer, for instance, his wife phoned several key political allies and urged them not to call for Sanford's ouster - a piece of maneuvering that may have saved his job. That detail goes unmentioned in the book.

She does, however, reserve some special ire for political reporters who, she gripes, are "frequently there when you don't want them around and rarely there when you do."

She also recalls strategizing briefly by phone with her husband before his infamous press conference. "Whatever you do, don't talk about your heart," she told him, a piece of advice that apparently went unheeded.

Jenny Sanford devotes page after page to roasting her husband for his selfishness and mushrooming ego, but she admits that warning signs were there, even the early days of their relationship.

She writes that when she became pregnant with their first child, Mark Sanford joined her at one Lamaze class before deeming it "a waste of his time."

He explained, "I've spent many long nights helping cows give birth and I know what to do when the baby gets stuck." Jenny Sanford's sister flew in to be with her for the birth instead.

When her grandfather died early in their marriage, Mark Sanford refused to make the trip to Chicago for the funeral because he "had only met him a handful of times," according to the book.

Later, while in Congress and living in Washington, the notoriously frugal Sanford once purchased a diamond necklace for his wife, who was residing with their boys back in Charleston, she writes.

Jenny Sanford wore it with pride, but when her husband returned home and saw her wearing it proudly, he said, "That is what I spend all that money on? I hope you kept the box!" He returned the necklace the next day.

Even with the seemingly never-ending tales of marital stress, there is little time for self-pity in "Staying True." While her husband is depicted as spending his adult life restlessly pursuing his political goals, Jenny Sanford writes lovingly of her busy life as a mother to the couple's four rambunctious boys.

Meanwhile, she came to realize that her marriage - which grew even more distant as he began his affair - wasn't exactly a romance novel.

"Certainly I didn't always feel loved by him or have that 'in-love' feeling for him as often as I would have liked, but that, I rationalized - and believed - was real marriage," she writes.

Despite the collapse of her marriage - Jenny Sanford filed for divorce late last year - she believes that her faith in God and "firmly planted" feet will carry her forward.

"I have loved and will love again," she writes.


Filed under: Jenny Sanford • Mark Sanford • Popular Posts
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Franky, Land of Lincoln

    "Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self."-Ciryl C.

    February 5, 2010 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  2. Benny, OH

    I thought Palin was the most annoying person in America, but I think Sanford has her beat. The arrogance of the man is beyond me. How is "everything good", when you use the tax[payers money to fly to Argentina to have and affair with your mistress good? He

    February 5, 2010 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  3. Death Assurance Companies

    Surely she meant emptyheaded.Thats the best laugh of the day.She watched"Gone with the Wind too many times. Go back to Tara lady."

    February 5, 2010 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  4. awaitingliberalizationbyCNN

    Great another National Enquirer story in the CNN Political Ticker, but no stories about the long, long, long investigation of Charlie Rangel by Nancy Pelosi. What is the matter with you people?

    February 5, 2010 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  5. GI Joe

    He was staring blankly - he was dreamin' of sparkin' with his Soul Mate.

    February 5, 2010 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  6. SVCraig

    Mark Sanfard exemplifies today's politicians, sleasy scam artists who preach a high standard that not even they can attain. They say one thing and do the opposite. I guess the problem is that they are just human.

    February 5, 2010 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  7. If you want something ruined, put a republican in charge

    His head is empty too.

    February 5, 2010 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  8. jk

    Boo-hoo. The social-climbing woman is pitched as the victim of the social-climbing man, and now makes a pack of money pimping herself in a semi-honest book. At least real sharks don't whine after they mate.

    February 5, 2010 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  9. JonDie

    Wrong, Jenny. Mark Sanford was ALWAYS that way. But don't worry, he's a Republican, so the media won't hound him like they would a Dem. So he'll be back, will probably run for president.

    February 5, 2010 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  10. Donkey Party

    Not surprised by her revelation. Republicans are empty-headed by nature, why wouldn't they be "empty-eyed" too? The eyes are a reflection of the soul, and we all know the Right-wingers are soulless sub-humans, so naturally their eyes are empty.

    February 5, 2010 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  11. gary davis harbor oregon

    na his is just a freak and the country knows it . hopefully he can't breed anymore . and his soon to be ex should take him to the cleaners . leave him with a ticket to go live with his girl freind .. dip stick moron

    February 5, 2010 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  12. C. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    A man who gets involved with another woman can at times be very cruel to his wife whom he has known for years. Those are sometimes the first signs of his guilty affair which leaves a woman very puzzled about what she's done wrong instead of thinking it's not her but it's the other woman that's controlling her husband. I'd advise any woman to get out now because this man is not worthy of the pain he'll continue to put her through. There are men out there who will love, respect and cherish you as a woman and not as someone he finds repulsive.

    February 5, 2010 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  13. Leslie, FL

    Mark Sanford has got to be the most self-absorbed man on the planet. Without reading her book, I could have told Jenny this man was selfish. The funny thing is, he still doesn't get it, and he won't until his sons have grown and he's wondering why they don't come around.

    Like Barack's father, I think Mark is teaching the boys what NOT to do when they become men.

    February 5, 2010 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  14. Total BS

    You are a retard Mr.Sanford !

    February 5, 2010 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  15. Orange Curtain, CA

    Please enough already. At least they are getting divorced so we don't have to keep hearing about their personal drama every day. Besdies now we can dwell on Sarah Palin and John Edwards again.

    February 5, 2010 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  16. Mississippi Country Boy

    That's something right there. Like my father told me. "Son, if you gone be married, Be Married. You know what you are getting into. No one will force you."

    February 5, 2010 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  17. Just saying...

    I feel so sorry for the sons of the Stanfords: He, the Governor, for just plain embarassing the children for a lifetime, and their mother, whose ambition and desire for the political limelight led her into a shell of a marriage. I feel the adult Stanfords deserve each other and every bit of misery they've earned, and the boys deserve a name change.

    February 5, 2010 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  18. Cheryl

    She is better off, and anything she can do will be vastly better. He sounds like the perfect selfish you know what. Good luck Jenny.

    February 5, 2010 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  19. iceaxedave

    When will Republican politicians learn? Try as you may, you can't out-do the master adulterer Bill "Slick Willy" Clinton. You have to be completely without scruples and wedded to Beelzubub...And Republicans just don't have what it takes!

    February 5, 2010 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  20. Mickey

    "Jenny Sanford: Husband became 'empty-eyed politician'"

    ...just like every other Republican domestic terrorist politician out there...

    February 5, 2010 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  21. Mrs. S Callahan

    So sorry you have suffered as you have Genny, particularly in the publics eye. Looks as though things are working out for the both of you now.

    February 5, 2010 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  22. j

    I respect Jenny Sanford. It sounds like her ex-husband has lost touch with reality. She'll do just fine.

    February 5, 2010 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |