May 24th, 2010
11:13 AM ET
5 years ago

Rising GOP star in SC denies affair allegations

South Carolina Gov. hopeful Nikki Haley denied Monday that she had an affair with a political blogger.
South Carolina Gov. hopeful Nikki Haley denied Monday that she had an affair with a political blogger.

(CNN) - South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley, surging in the race ahead of the June 8 Republican primary, is forcefully denying a claim that she once had an extramarital affair with a prominent South Carolina political blogger.

Will Folks, the editor of what many consider the state's most influential political news Web site, wrote Monday that he had an "an inappropriate physical relationship" with Haley, who is married with two children, several years ago. The story was quickly picked up by other political news outlets.

"I have been 100 percent faithful to my husband throughout our 13 years of marriage," Haley said in a statement issued by her campaign. "This claim against me is categorically and totally false."

Haley called the accusation "sad" and "disgraceful" and questioned the timing of the charge, which comes just days after some polls indicated Haley vaulting to the front of the four-way Republican primary race.

"These attacks – and those sure to follow – are an effort at distraction, but I will keep my focus on what matters, and that is delivering South Carolina's government back to our people," she said. "That's a fight I have fought for the last five years. That's why I entered this race for Governor. And that's what I will continue to do, despite any outrageous and false claims that are thrown at me."

Haley canceled an interview with a local television station in Columbia after the accusation was posted online.

Folks is a former spokesman for Republican Gov. Mark Sanford who left the governor's office in 2005. Days later, he was charged with an incident of domestic violence for which he plead guilty but avoided jail time. Folks then launched FITSNews.com, a Web site dedicated to promoting conservative reform efforts in the state that quickly became a go-to clearinghouse for Palmetto State political news and gossip.

Folks - a supporter of Haley's - said he decided to write about the relationship after it became clear that rival campaigns were leaking information about it to the media.

"This network of operatives has made it abundantly clear that in the process of 'taking down' Rep. Haley, they will also stop at nothing to humiliate me, destroy my family and take a sizable chunk out of the credibility this website has managed to amass for itself," he wrote. "Such is the blood sport of S.C. politics, I suppose – particularly in the wake of the scandal that consumed my former boss, Gov. Mark Sanford."

Haley was urged to run for the state's top office last year by allies of Sanford, who saw the state legislator as an ideological heir to the fiscally conservative governor. Folks has written favorably about Haley's bid for governor, calling her the best candidate to "advance the ideals I believe in." (He has also complimented Haley in other ways; in 2008, he described her as "hot as hell.")

But Folks has also refused to shy away from attacking many of the state's entrenched political figures – a crusade that has earned him more than a few enemies in the famously tribal world of South Carolina politics.

Haley became the target of attacks from her rivals in the GOP primary over the last two weeks after a series of television ads and an endorsement from Sarah Palin gave her a well-timed burst of momentum in the closing stages of the campaign. Haley's GOP opponents are Attorney General Henry McMaster, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer and Rep. Gresham Barrett.

Though little-known at the outset of her campaign, Haley became a popular figure within the conservative movement and among Tea Party activists who saw her as a fresh face and a vehicle for small government ideals.

Her campaign has also been boosted by endorsements from Palin, who held a rally with Haley earlier this month, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a 2008 GOP presidential candidate who is considering another run for the White House.

Haley was an ally of Sanford's in the state legislature, and though the governor steered clear of endorsing her after he revealed an extramarital affair last summer, Haley does have the backing of First Lady Jenny Sanford.

After Haley issued her denial Monday, an associate of Folks told CNN: "He has nothing to add to his comments regarding this matter and will not be conducting any further interviews on the subject."

Story updated at 1:17 p.m. ET


Filed under: 2010 • Nikki Haley • Popular Posts • South Carolina
soundoff (91 Responses)
  1. Al-NY,NY

    Since the GOP of SC is inherently corrupt (morally especially) I would not be surprised about this. I hope it's true!!!

    May 24, 2010 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  2. rs

    A Republican claiming not to have an affair? After their track record of the last 5 years, the other shoe is about to fall...

    May 24, 2010 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  3. Michael Armstrong Sr.

    That's why these politicians cant get nothing done there all to busy screwing around .

    May 24, 2010 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  4. Ryan

    Let's see...GOP + affair.....of course it's true. That's what they're known for!

    May 24, 2010 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  5. jp,michigan

    The Democratic (party) way! Do what ever it takes to win lie , distort, cheat and buy off or promise a job!

    May 24, 2010 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  6. bill486

    Hey! Can I run for governor of South Carolina on the republican ticket, too? Looks like a swingin' life!

    May 24, 2010 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  7. A keen observer

    Isn't it amusing to watch the republicans eat each other? What a bunch of idiots!

    May 24, 2010 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  8. Susan

    In a day or two we will be hearing her say she is sorry for being unfaithful...... or she will lie about this until after the election and then when she win (if she wins) she will then confess to the affair......I know both parties have their adulterous canidates but it seems that the GOP as the party that thinks they have the corner on Morality and Family Virtues has a lot of canidates that screw around......

    May 24, 2010 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  9. Milton

    This goes to show how pathetic and biased our News media has now become. We have a newly elected Democratic Senator stating that he was solicited by the Whitehouse with a bribe to sit out an election and we have very little reporting or action by the AG to investigate the accusation of a felony generated from within the highest seat of our once great Nation. Instead, the News media would prefer to chase rumors of marital affairs of people running for office... By the way if America is being invaded by Hispanics from the adjacent country and our immigration officials and police target them based on their ethnic composure why would racial profiling be a bad thing, I mean doesn't a program like affirmative action target people for special tax funded entitlements based upon the same exact basis?

    May 24, 2010 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  10. Lucy

    Figures... she's a conservative.

    May 24, 2010 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  11. sonny chapman

    "Take back the Govt.(state) to the people of S. Carolina". I've never seen a bunch of folks SO bent out of shape because somebody TOOK their guvment.

    May 24, 2010 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  12. Jonathan

    I wonder how much the blogger was paid to write that by one of the other GOP campaigns?

    May 24, 2010 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  13. demmie

    a blogger?! seriously? since when do we take the word of a blogger? If somone here posts that they had an affair with Obama, will it make news?

    May 24, 2010 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  14. LC

    How refreshing to see that Republicans are equal opportunity cheaters. Come on Democratic women, your turn.

    May 24, 2010 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  15. William Jefferson

    Cool, and finally. A woman having the affair. About time. You go girl!

    May 24, 2010 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  16. Kurt

    Uh, huh, sure. And I'm sure your affair wasn't as seedy as those godless Democrats, Liberals, blah, blah...........

    May 24, 2010 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  17. Richard Puente

    Why Deny it.. It's a norm in your so called GOPChristian beliefs BLAH to ruin your families and cheat on your spouses. Jesus – Between all the homos and Adultry happenings in our goverment on the Tax dime it's wonder we are in the situation we are in.

    May 24, 2010 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  18. ClemsonTiger

    Wanna bet very soon she will say "I sinned. I need to talk to my Lord and reconnect with my family". All CONS will be a happy family...

    May 24, 2010 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  19. debbie

    Why are the people of South Carolina always out of control? The old time idea of the South having manners and protocol is so not true today. From lack of civility and respect in Congress to who's doing who with their governor. What caused this mess in South Carolinas people?

    May 24, 2010 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  20. Seth

    Mrs. Haley, I will have no respect for you unless you sue this Mr. Will Folks for slander. His actions are possibly costing you this election.

    If you wish to have credibility, you cannot take this personal offense lying down. IF he really is lying about an affair with you, it should be
    taken to court, if not for you ... then for the sake of doing the right thing
    for the people of SC. To not do all you can legally, is unthinkable, and
    if you are worth your own integrity... you will save it at all costs.

    If you don't sue for slander... What are we to believe?

    May 24, 2010 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  21. Mom of four

    Another family values conservative bites the dust!!

    May 24, 2010 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  22. Al Ram

    Hhhhmmmmmm....

    From one unfaithful GOP to another unfaithful GOP.......South Carolanians deserve a better one!!!

    May 24, 2010 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  23. Rick McDaniel

    Looks like the Dems are trying to attach the Stigma from the current GOP governor to the fresh candidate.

    Dirty politics.....but since when did that bother the Dems.....who are out to become dictators in America.

    May 24, 2010 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  24. Ben in Texas

    As a progressive, it would be easy for me to jump on the bandwagon with this accusation, since SC has a Repugnant governor whose sexual escapades are well known, since there have been repeated sexual scandals among fundamentalist Repugnants, and since Palin is a Nikki Haley backer. However, her denials are unequivocal, and I will give her the benefit of a doubt until something is proven otherwise.

    May 24, 2010 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  25. Too True For You

    The SC track record suggests she is not telling the truth:

    Mark "Let's impeach theat immoral turd Clinton" Sanford really was hiking the Applachins.

    Strom "I am a strong supporter of segragation" Thurmond didn't mind getting together with his 15 year old black maid.

    Joe "Liar" Wilson isn't a cretinous populist boob.

    May 24, 2010 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
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