Haley denies affair with political blogger on WVOC - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Haley denies affair with political blogger on WVOC

Haley and her husband, Michael, at Sarah Palin's endorsement of Haley Haley and her husband, Michael, at Sarah Palin's endorsement of Haley
Political blogger Will Folks (Source: FITSNews.com) Political blogger Will Folks (Source: FITSNews.com)
Haley and Palin Haley and Palin

By Logan Smith - email | bio

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS/AP) - Nikki Haley took to the airwaves Monday afternoon to "emphatically" deny a political blogger and former Sanford aide's claim that he had a romantic relationship with the Republican gubernatorial candidate in 2007.

Haley appeared on Keven Cohen's radio show Monday afternoon to deny the affair with blogger and former Gov. Mark Sanford spokesman Will Folks.

"They don't realize they've just unleashed a tiger, because I'm probably more motivated and fired up than I've ever been," said Haley.

Folks announced the affair on his website, FITSNews, Monday morning.

"Several years ago, prior to my marriage, I had an inappropriate physical relationship with Nikki," said Folks. Folks said political opponents of Haley and himself were leaking evidence of the affair to the press, and claimed the story would've come out this week no matter what.

"I will not be discussing the details of that relationship, nor will I be granting any additional interviews about it to members of the media beyond what I have already been compelled to confirm," Folks continued. The blogger gave no proof of the relationship, which he claims took place when he worked for Haley in 2007.

"I have been 100% faithful to my husband throughout our 13 years of marriage," Haley responded in a statement, following up with an appearance on a Columbia radio station. "This claim against me is categorically and totally false." Rep. Haley called Folks' allegations "South Carolina politics at its worst," though Folks and his website have often supported Haley and her political aims in the past.

Online campaign records show Folks was on Haley's payroll in 2008, according to Politico. Haley's campaign for state senate paid Folks' consulting firm, Viewpolitik, over $1,200 in January and February of 2008. Folks said he did communications work for Haley, including writing speeches and news releases in 2007.

Haley recently rocketed to the front of the polls in the Republican race for governor after being publicly endorsed by Republican icon Sarah Palin and former first lady Jenny Sanford. Ms. Sanford, who divorced her husband after the governor announced an extramarital affair of his own, has not commented on the affair allegations or said whether she still supports Haley..

Haley was once a close political ally of Gov. Sanford, but distanced herself from him after Sanford's affair came to light. Haley said the governor had "fallen short" in his behavior, but refused to join calls for his resignation. The Sanford-affiliated group ReformSC recently spent $400,000 on pro-Haley ads, and Jenny Sanford even compared Haley to her former husband in her endorsement of Haley.

The Columbia Free Times has "been investigating a story involving an alleged affair between Haley and Folks for several weeks," and on Monday cited an unnamed source who claimed Folks privately admitted the affair in 2009. "Furthermore, the source ... says former Haley staffer B.J. Boling told him Haley had confided in him about the affair around the time Boling was working on her House reelection campaign in 2008," the Free Times reported.

State Republican Party Chairwoman Karen Floyd criticized the media for covering the story at all, saying in a statement, "South Carolinians deserve a higher level of political discourse than this, and they frankly deserve a press corps that focuses on real, substantive issues rather than on Internet rumor mongering." Palin also lambasted the "lamestream media" as she defended Haley on Facebook Monday afternoon.

"I've been there," Palin wrote. "Any lies told about you will strengthen your resolve to clean up political and media corruption. You and your supporters will grow stronger through things like this."

Haley and the other candidates for governor recently participated in a debate sponsored by the Palmetto Family Council where they spoke about being maritally faithful while serving in politics. "You are being held to a higher standard and so you have much more service you have to give and you're a role model to everybody that follows you," Haley said during the debate.

Folks said he owes apologies only to Haley and her family, and to his own wife for failing to reveal the relationship earlier in their marriage. He wed in 2008.

Folks left the governor's administration in 2005, around the same time he pleaded guilty to the criminal domestic violence charge and received a 30-day suspended sentence. Folks kicked open the door at a home he shared with a lobbyist and shoved her into a piece of furniture, police said.

Folks had little political experience before joining Sanford's 2002 campaign. When Sanford won, the governor made the ball-cap wearing, alternative rock band-playing son of a college professor his spokesman.

His website refers to him as "Sic Willie," sports the tag line "Unfair. Imbalanced," and often promotes Haley's campaign. Besides running his website, Folks has worked on several successful political campaigns.

"I can sleep at night knowing I handled this the best way I knew how (the way my wife and I decided together that it needed to be handled), which was to simply tell the truth," Folks said in the article.

Haley, an accountant and three-term legislator, is in a tight race for the GOP nomination with Congressman Gresham Barrett, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer and Attorney General Henry McMaster.

Winthrop University political scientist Scott Huffmon said the allegations may affect some of Haley's high-profile support, though Palin wasn't budging.

"There's literally no way to disprove a negative and that is going to stick to her no matter how hard she tries to shake it off," Huffmon said.

Copyright 2010 WIS. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.

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