Nikki Haley’s Imaginary Mark Sanford Scandal
GOVERNOR’S BOOK INCLUDES BIZARRE REFERENCE TO SANFORD’S APPALACHIAN TRAIL SAGA
We knew that S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley’s new book would take all sorts of artistic license, but the governor’s “Fiction Addiction” may have jumped to a higher energy level as it relates to a bizarre claim involving former Gov. Mark Sanford.
According to Haley, unidentified members of the mainstream media questioned her back in 2009 about her proximity to the sex scandal that ended the governor’s presidential aspirations and nearly brought down his administration.
Specifically, Haley claims that she was accused of having been in Argentina with the former governor at the time he was purportedly “hiking the Appalachian Trail.” This line of questioning – which Haley says was initiated because her SUV was discovered in a parking space next to Sanford’s SUV at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport on June 23, 2009 – forced her into a “humiliating position” and caused her to “for the first time come face-to-face with what it meant to be a woman in the (gubernatorial) race.”
There’s only one problem with Haley’s version of events … like virtually everything else that comes out of her mouth, it appears to be a complete and total fabrication.
In fact, reporter Chris Haire of The Charleston (S.C.) City Paper has published a story poking the first of what we suspect will be many holes in the governor’s narrative.
“Of the reporters that I spoke to, none of them contacted the Haley campaign about this alleged smear,” Haire reports.
Before addressing that, let’s take a look at Haley’s version of events …
I woke up the next morning and was heading into my job at the Lexington Medical Center Foundation, where I now worked when the House wasn’t in session, when got a call from Tim [Pearson]. “The governor was in Argentina,” he said. “We just got a call from a news station asking if you were with him.” I felt sick to my stomach.
I turned around on the steps of the hospital and went immediately back to the office. When I got there, Tim intercepted me in the parking lot. “I want to know what’s going on,” he said. The media were reporting that they had found Gov. Sanford’s car at the airport. “They have sources watching the airport, and your car was spotted parked next to the governor’s,” Tim continued. “We told the station they can’t run the story. We told them you were in D.C. and not anywhere near the governor.”
If Haley is referring to the morning of Tuesday June 23, 2009 then this claim is impossible – because CNN reporter Peter Hamby didn’t file his initial report regarding the discovery of Sanford’s vehicle until later that evening.
It’s more likely that Haley is referring to the morning of Wednesday June 24, 2009 – the day Sanford gave his infamous press conference – but even this claim is dubious from a timing standpoint. After all, how could Haley’s campaign manager (actually Pearson was her spokesman at the time) know something that the governor’s own chief of staff and communications director didn’t know?
Anyway, more on that in a moment … first let’s finish Haley’s “victim” narrative …
… I thought with horror about how I was now being dragged into this scandal. For the first time I came face-to-face with what it meant to be a woman in the race. The rumor about Gov. Sanford and me lacked any factual foundation whatsoever. I had been in meetings for days in D.C. with dozens of people — including holding on-the-record, already published interviews with reporters. But the fact that the media were even asking said it all. They wouldn’t be putting a male candidate in the humiliating position of having to explain why his car was parked by chance next to the governor’s at the airport. I couldn’t believe this was happening in 2009 in America. Tim managed to convince the now-ravenvous media that I hadn’t been in Argentina with the governor, but in the hours and days that followed the scandal only got worse.
This website covered Sanford’s “Appalachian Trail” saga from beginning to end. At no time did anyone ever raise the issue of a Haley connection to the story … and none of the reporters or State House insiders who we’ve spoken with can recall such a connection being raised, either.
“People all over town were talking about Mark Sanford’s situation,” a State House source tells FITS. “No one ever linked it to Nikki Haley.”
Multiple sources in Sanford’s office – including those who reviewed FOIA responses containing all of the media inquiries received by the office related to the Argentina scandal – tell FITS that they never received any inquiries related to Haley.
Sanford’s spokesman at the time, Joel Sawyer, did not respond to repeated requests for comment related to this story … but we suspect that if a “legitimate” media outlet were to put him on the spot that he’d be forced to answer truthfully.
Additionally, we’ve spoken to sources close to all of Haley’s 2010 gubernatorial rivals – as well as an advisor to her longtime nemesis S.C. Sen. Jakie Knotts (the guy who actually found Sanford’s car at the airport) – and none of them had ever heard of the story until Haley mentioned it in her book.
“We’d have run that till the cows came home,” a source close to the campaign of former U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett told FITS of a Sanford-Haley rumor.
More to the point, there’s this little bit of video evidence (courtesy of WSPA) …
At the time the Sanford scandal broke, Haley drove a white Cadillac SRX with a legislative license plate. Her husband, Michael Haley, drove a smaller, dark-colored SUV – also with a legislative license plate. Obviously neither of the vehicles seen parked next to Sanford’s car in the video above matches either of those descriptions.
Even more damaging for Haley? One of her own former staffers is flatly rebuking her narrative.
“It is absolutely untrue,” the staffer said. “Complete untrue. We didn’t find out about it until that morning (that Sanford gave his press conference). There was never an allegation involving Nikki Haley because no one knew who she was at the time.”
Asked if Haley ever received any media inquiries related to her car being parked next to Sanford’s, the source said “no … none.”
So which reporters called Haley regarding the story?
As is its policy, Haley’s office did not respond to our request for comment regarding this story.
Seriously, though … will she be able to document her claim? You know … the same way this website’s founding editor documented his claim that there were media inquiries into allegations that he had an affair with Haley prior to coming forward with that information?
If she can’t … then Can’t Is Not An Option has a major credibility problem on its hands.