A New South Carolina Gubernatorial Sex Scandal

So I know we have been going through a whirlwind of celebrity cheating scandals lately, and with some of them having over 10 mistresses, it’s hard to keep track of who is deceiving whom. But I am sure you can remember the tale of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. Almost a year ago, Sanford disappeared for several days, later resurfacing in an airport returning from Argentina. News quickly spread. Turns out he’d run off to South America to be with his “soul mate”. He also admitted to “crossing the line” with over 20 other women throughout his marriage. Somehow all this hubbub didn’t get Sanford impeached, but he was censured and served with a divorce.

Well, now South Carolina is ready to put Sanford in the past with the upcoming election to replace him. While Sanford is guaranteed to be out, it looks like scandal is here to stay. Republican Nikki Haley, running to be South Carolina’s first female governor, is accused of having several affairs. Here we go again. Until the past few weeks, it seemed like a long shot that Nikki Haley would capture the Republican primary for South Carolina Governor. The married mother of two had worked in state legislature assisting Sanford, and received the support of both the governor and his wife, which probably would have meant more sans the South American tryst. Regardless, Haley surprised many by capturing the lead in a poll taken last month. Soon after Haley’s arrival at the top, political blogger Will Folks revealed on his site that he had a relationship with her back in 2007. While Folks was not married at the time, Haley was. As both a Haley and Sanford supporter, Folks claims that he planned to stay quiet about the “transgression,” to use Tiger’s word, but decided to reveal the story when an unnamed rival politician started shopping it around. The blogger said that it was a preemptive strike of sorts, to make sure the truth of the scandal came out correctly. Haley is calling it dirty politics at its worse—she denies the claim, saying that there isn’t any evidence.

But now a second accuser has come forward. Lobbyist Larry Merchant confessed this week that he had a one-night-stand with Haley in 2008. The twist is that Merchant was a lobbyist for Haley’s fellow gubernatorial candidate, Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer, until the other day when he resigned and went public with his claim. Once again, the accuser does not have any evidence that the affair took place, leading some to think that this was stunt organized by Bauer and his people.

Public reception of the Haley affair can be split into two camps: supporters and skeptics. Many believe that the claims about Haley’s indiscretions are right and that the Sanford sex scandal apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. But others just see this as sexist politics, a collection of men in power conspiring against a woman who is a threat. As her campaign manager, Tim Pearson, put it, “As Nikki Haley rises in the polls, the good old boys in Columbia see their taxpayer-funded fraternity party coming crumbling down, and they will say or do anything to hold onto their power.”

As with most scandals, I believe that the truth will probably end up landing somewhere in the middle. But it’s always a shame to see personal business become politics. Haley continues to adamantly deny both claims and has tried to stay focused on the issues facing her state. Not her sex life.

[New York Times]
[Associated Press]