Mark Sanford doesn’t deserve credit for coming clean on his own, according to new details published by the Columbia SC State. That newspaper not only met Gov. Mark Sanford at the Atlanta airport, but also, before Sanford’s presser that afternoon, repeatedly notified him that they had the incriminating emails and would ask him about Maria at the press conference; further, a Columbia political website had broken the news. In addition, in the meantime, McClatchy reporters had located and spoken to his mistress in Argentina. The press conference was delayed, and Sanford finally appeared and essentially only admitted the details of what the newspapers already knew. Even at that, he still dodged the fact that he and his wife were separated.
Shortly after 5 a.m. Wednesday, [State reporter] Smith went to the airport. Shortly after 6 a.m., she met a surprised Sanford. Smith was the only media member there.
Sanford said he had just arrived from Argentina. He also said he had not been on the Appalachian Trail.
When asked who he had been with in Argentina, the governor cut off the interview.
By 7:30 a.m., thestate.com had broken the news that Sanford had not been on the Appalachian Trail, but in Argentina.
In their morning meeting, State editors decided to immediately inform the governor and his inner circle about the e-mails. .
A reporter called a Sanford staffer, saying the paper had e-mails that outlined an affair between the governor and Maria. Unless Sanford would address the issue privately, The State would have no choice but to ask him — with TV crews filming — if he knew Maria at his press conference that afternoon.
The names of two other women tumbled into the newsroom.
Fearful Sanford’s staffers did not get it — that the paper would ask publicly what Sanford’s relationship was with Maria — a State editor called Davis, Sanford’s former chief of staff.
Davis, a Beaufort lawyer, recently had been elected to the state Senate. When called, he quickly said he no longer worked for Sanford.
The editor said he knew that but wanted to talk with Davis. Sanford had landed from Argentina, and the paper had e-mails about an affair with a woman in Argentina.
The editor told Davis why he thought the e-mails were genuine. They mentioned Coosaw, the Sanford plantation, and Sanford’s love of digging holes; they quoted Bible verses and contained details about Sanford’s known schedule.
And more names of women were coming in over the transom. The total was at three and counting.
“Women?!” Davis responded, sounding incredulous. “Women?!”
The editor repeated that the paper would ask Sanford publicly about Maria with TV cameras running. Jenny Sanford and the couple’s four sons should be spared that image, and it was up to Davis to ensure Sanford’s staffers “got it.”
Davis, who said he was in Beaufort, promised to call Sanford’s staff and call back.
When he called back, Davis said he was driving to Columbia.
Within minutes, a Columbia Web site operated by former Sanford staffer Folks, which regularly promotes Sanford’s agenda and Davis’ political prospects, was reporting The State had e-mails about a Sanford affair.
Meanwhile, an editor in the Washington bureau of McClatchy Newspapers, which owns The State, volunteered to arrange for a freelance journalist in Argentina to go to Maria’s Buenos Aires address, contained in the e-mails.
A woman there initially said she was Maria, but then said Maria was not there when the freelancer said she was a reporter.
Sanford’s press conference was scheduled to start at 2 p.m. It was delayed until 2:30.
QUESTION: Are you separated from the first lady?
SANFORD: I — I don’t know how you want to define that. I mean, I’m here and she’s there. I guess in a formal sense we’re not, but you know, what we’re — what we’re trying to do is work through something that, you know, we’ve been working through for a number of months now.
Jenny Sanford, in the Washington Post:
Jenny Sanford, 46, a former Wall Street executive whose grandfather founded a power-saw manufacturing company, did not appear at the news conference and issued a statement saying that she and her husband had agreed to a “trial separation” with the goal of “ultimately strengthening our marriage.”
“We reached a point where I felt it was important to look my sons in the eyes and maintain my dignity, self-respect, and my basic sense of right and wrong,” she said. “I therefore asked my husband to leave two weeks ago. During this short separation it was agreed that Mark would not contact us.”