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South Carolina's Nikki Haley denies affair with former aide to Gov. Sanford; Palin defends her

South Carolina Republican gubernatorial candidates Rep. Nikki Haley, U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett and Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer during a debate May 3, 2010 by AP Photo
We will leave for another day the question of what's in the water in South Carolina. Allegations of sexual affairs are slung so often that perhaps the state should consider bottling its water as an aphrodisiac. It could ease a lot of deficit woes.

The current allegations come from Will Folks, a former spokesman for Gov. Mark Sanford, dubbed "the luv guv" for the fling with an Argentinian woman that blew up his marriage to First Lady Jenny Sanford and prompted her to move out of the governor's mansion with their four sons.

Now a blogger whose website FitsNews.com promises political coverage that is "unfair and imbalanced," Folks alleges that state Rep. Nikki Haley, who is now running for governor and is a married mother of two, had "an inappropriate physical relationship" with him several years ago.

With two weeks to go before the June 8 elections, Haley is leading a four-way race for the Republican nomination for governor. According to a Rasmussen poll, Haley has 30% of the vote, to 19% for Atty. Gen. Henry McMaster, 19% for Rep. Gresham Barrett and 12% for Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer.

So Haley wasted no time firing back. She said Folks, a former campaign consultant, is lying.

As the Charleston Post and Courier put it, "Somebody's lying."

When former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin endorsed Haley, it galvanized the 'tea party' conservatives to the side of a candidate who until then had been considered a long-shot, though she was endorsed by Jenny Sanford. Palin warned her then to expect dirty tricks.

"I warned her and her family that she would be targeted because she's a threat to a corrupt political machine, and she would be put through some hell," Palin wrote on her Facebook page.

Whether Folks actually had an affair with Haley or is burnishing his reputation as a less-than-reliable source is impossible to know. What is clear from his writing is that Folks may have wanted to have an affair with Haley, writing in a 2008 entry that the state representative was "hot as hell."

Either way, Haley is cognizant of the potential damage -- and the need to respond quickly. As she told WVOC radio, "They unleashed a tiger."

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: South Carolina Republican gubernatorial candidates Rep. Nikki Haley, left, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer  and U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett during a debate on May 3. Credit: Associated Press

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Comments () | Archives (4)

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"...yeah and I slept with Pamela Anderson...yes...really...I did.."

I'll tell ya what's in the water down here: gaters. Big ones, lol!

"...yeah and I slept with Pamela Anderson...yes...really...I did.."

The only problem with your analogy, Maximu Cowboy, is that claiming that you slept with Pam Anderson would enhance your image of masculinity. We can't say the same thing concerning an affair with Nikki Haley.

And in fact, Will Folks has a hell of a lot to lose if his accusations turn out to be fabrications. Not only would he be excoriated by millions of people -- with the secondary and predictable negative effects on his perceived masculinity -- but also, he could be sued for libel or slander.

Therefore, Folks has little incentive, if any, to make this up.

On the other hand, Nikky Haley has all the motivation in the world to deny that this occurred, whether or not it actually did.

Of course, none of us know the facts. However, given these incentives and drawbacks for both parties, I'm willing to bet a bundle on the premise that Will Folks is telling the truth and Nicky Haley is lying.

""...yeah and I slept with Pamela Anderson...yes...really...I did.."

The only problem with your analogy, Maximu Cowboy, is that claiming that you slept with Pam Anderson would enhance your image of masculinity. We can't say the same thing concerning an affair with Nikki Haley.

And in fact, Will Folks has a hell of a lot to lose if his accusations turn out to be fabrications. Not only would he be excoriated by millions of people -- with the secondary and predictable negative effects on his perceived masculinity -- but also, he could be sued for libel or slander.

Therefore, Folks has little incentive, if any, to make this up.

On the other hand, Nikky Haley has all the motivation in the world to deny that this occurred, whether or not it actually did.

Of course, none of us know the facts. However, given these incentives and drawbacks for both parties, I'm willing to bet a bundle on the premise that Will Folks is telling the truth and Nicky Haley is lying."

Mr. Person, while your logic is valid, the threat of libel and loss of masculinity are not necessarily enough to deter a man such as Will Folks from making false accusations. Keep in mind that although Nikki Haley is no Victoria's Secret model, an affair with her is not necessarily a loss of masculinity. First, I do not know the age of Mr. Folks, if he is older than Mrs. Haley, then affair may enhance his masculinity. And even if he is younger, a fresh out of college man, having an affair with a relatively young political figure would make him seem like an object of desire, thus giving him an ironic respect among at least some male peers. Aside from all this, a "He says-She says" libel situation for a public figure in the United States is difficult to win. This is because the Supreme Court has set limited protections of libel for public figures, be they TV celebrities or political candidates.
That being said, I am not necessarily saying that I believe Mrs. Haley is vindicated, nor do I even support her for any reason. I am of Indian descent like her, but am ideologically opposed to most of what she believes in. I am just saying that just because someone like Mr.Folks has an incentive not to fabricate stories, does not mean he will refrain from fabricating a story. Or else our prisons would be void of men and women who "followed their incentive" to stay out of trouble.


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A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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