S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley is standing by her bizarre claim that fifty percent of recent job applicants at the Savannah River Site (SRS) failed drug tests while the other half “couldn’t read and write properly.”

Talk about “selling the greatness of South Carolina,” right?

SRS is a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) facility on the Savannah River that once refined nuclear material for deployment in offensive weaponry during the Cold War. The site is currently transitioning into a mixed-oxide fuel manufacturing plant that will convert weapons grade plutonium into energy for commercial nuclear reactors.

So yeah … it’s not exactly the sort of work you want stoners or illiterates performing, although SRS officials immediately challenged Haley’s contention that those were the only sort of people applying to do it.

“Half the people who applied for a job last year or year 2009 did not fail the drug test,” an SRS spokesman told The Huffington Post – the website which first broke the story. “At the peak of hiring under the Recovery Act we had less than 1 percent of those hired test positive.”

The spokesman added that SRS doesn’t even drug test applicants – it only tests those people it winds up hiring.

Haley’s spokesman Rob Godfrey refused to talk to The Huffington Post, but he fired back in the local press – saying that the governor’s statistics “came from an SRS contractor who was involved in hiring folks” to work at SRS.

“We were in a meeting at the SRS site last year, and people know that it was said,”  Haley’s office said in a statement released to The Aiken Standard. “We didn’t ask them for backup when they said it, we took them at their word.”

According to Aiken Standard reporter Anna Dolianitis, Haley’s office said that it would provide statistics to justify the governor’s claim – but failed to do so. Haley’s office also failed to return phone calls inquiring as to whether those statistics ever really existed – and if so, who provided them.

Big surprise, right?

Meanwhile … get this … email exchanges between the governor’s office and the Department of Energy over the drug testing issue “are being kept private,” according to an SRS spokesman.

Private? Private?

At this point, we’d usually make a reference to the fact that Haley campaigned on “transparency in government” and has once again fallen short on her signature issue – but let’s face it, that horse is dead. Haley has not only failed to live up to her promise – she’s well on her way to becoming the least transparent governor in South Carolina history.

Which is saying something …