May 24th, 2010
11:13 AM ET
4 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. HBO

    I bet she did it...

    May 24, 2010 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  2. Brian L

    You have been 100% faithful????/

    Congrats you just lost the South Carolina GOP electorate. They do not want true family values they want sound bytes............ Your soooo going to lose now!

    May 24, 2010 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  3. whaley41

    It's amazing that now she is frontrunner and endorsed by Sarah Palin that this slime ball comes out of the woodwork. Who knows if its true or not, but you dems elected Bill Clinton after he had several affairs saying his personal life did not matter.

    May 24, 2010 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  4. Tom in Delaware

    Naturally she's being attacked....Firstly, she's a Republican...Secondly, she's surged ahead in the polls...Lastly, she surged ahead in the polls after being endorsed by Sarah Palin...what more needs to be said.

    Meanwhile....the Left just blows off the liar Blumenthal as if it's nothing.

    May 24, 2010 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  5. Dano

    How nice another morally pure Republican accused of straying from their vows to be faithful to their spouse. I have no idea whether it's true or not, but I'm sure the facts will come out in the next few weeks, and someone will decide to "take time off to spend with their family". Maybe now that members of the GOP have begun attacking each other over these matters that really have no bearing on how a person will govern, we can finally get this tabloid garbage out of politics and focus on a politicians voting record and not who they may/may not have slept with.

    May 24, 2010 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  6. steve

    Will Folks action is despicable. I couldn't care less if she was Repub or Dem. There are 2 children involved that didn't need to hear this through the news. I don't have a clue whether it's correct, just slimey

    May 24, 2010 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  7. BobH

    I love how public officials engage in questionable behavior and, when it comes out and people show interest in it, the officials accuse the media and the voters of bloodlust. Like we all made them do it...

    May 24, 2010 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  8. Jamie from Riverside

    Opps! There goes another one!
    South Carolina has become one big ol' traveling chamber of horrors.

    May 24, 2010 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  9. Hopey

    And another Republican to steal, cheat and lie for an already struggling state... Great Job GOP!

    May 24, 2010 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  10. Deborah/KansasCity

    Fast forward 2 weeks-Teary eyed husband stands next to her, looking down, while she admits to the affair. Don't think so. She will be alone on the podium while she admits to her "sin and mistake' and begs forgivenss. After all, it wasn't her fault, it is the "Liberal Media" just out to get her, oh wait, the "Conservative Media" out to get her, and she could't help it, with so much pressure and "sorority environoment" in Washington; oh, wait in South Carolina. Maybe she should blame the Governor of South Carolina, after all he left the country, without telling anyone, to see his mistress; and still gets to be Governor, she wasn't that bad.

    May 24, 2010 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  11. Republicans is smart in the head area

    If he made this up he deserves to be sued out of existence. If he's telling the truth, her career should be toast. But considering this is the Land of Sanford, I'm not so sure. Maybe SC voters are tolerant of men cheating (good ole boys) but not their virginal women folk?

    May 24, 2010 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  12. Popduds.com

    lol South Carolina.. I'm often embarrassed to be a resident.

    May 24, 2010 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  13. John

    Imagine that, a tea party candidate starts to take the lead and the Republican party manages to find a way to "tarnish" her. If it happens to be true, shame on her. I just find it convenient that this surfaces now when she is gaining momentum.

    May 24, 2010 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  14. Jennifer NYC

    I'm really sick of this kind of stuff..baseless allegations, and people's personal lives. John Edwards was different because he was running for President and his whole life was a big fat lie. Leave this woman alone...people are tired of this.

    May 24, 2010 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  15. brain2brain

    Quit denying and take a simple polygraph...both of you idiots!

    May 24, 2010 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  16. JOhn

    A South Carolina repoublican that has not had an affair? Isn't that a requirement of the right these days?

    May 24, 2010 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  17. Moderate

    Usually when they defend themselves with talk, they are guilty. When they defend themselves with facts, they aren't.

    This doesn't look good !

    May 24, 2010 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  18. Sniffit

    Why do they always deny it? I mean, their denials never end up being the truth. Might as well just admit it and move on...be an adult, take your lumps and get back to business. Hubby might leave with the kids, but if you're a politician looking for higher office, you've pretty much already told the family they're #2 in your life anyway.

    BTW, no, I'm not saying that because it's a woman. The men show us day after day that they've put the family after their political career in order to be elected to higher office and have the power they crave, and it is no different for the women.

    May 24, 2010 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  19. JasonK

    If it's lips are moving we know that a conservative is lying. How long before she apologizes for the affair

    May 24, 2010 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  20. Minnesotan

    If South Carolina's gov't needs to be delivered back to its people, who took it away? Because the Dems have very little to do with anything in that Sate.

    May 24, 2010 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  21. Parker

    She was so close to being the first woman Governor too. Oh well, she should not do things that will come back to haunt you- if you want to be in public office.

    May 24, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  22. me

    Bottom line is: what does her husband think? If it happened, he"s probably already aware of it. Now I guess it's just a matter of convincing all the perfect people out there that it's okay.

    May 24, 2010 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  23. Jeff in Houston

    At least the Republicans can take heart that this time its between a man and a woman and not involving homosexuals and little boys. See! I CAN see the good side of a a situation!

    May 24, 2010 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  24. Realistic

    If its true, its become so common that if this proves to be false, that will be the real shocker.

    May 24, 2010 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  25. BillE

    Another politician another scandal. Vote with your head. Neither party has a edge when it comes to ethics.Out with the old. (be careful of some of these tea party wackos) There are a lot of good people out there that would make good leaders and not party puppets.

    May 24, 2010 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
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