Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is decrying claims by a blogger that he had an inappropriate physical relationship with South Carolina Republican gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley.
In a posting on her Facebook page Monday, Palin said it was "quite convenient" that blogger Will Folks made the allegation and then said he would not talk any further about it.
Folks claims the relationship took place when he worked for Haley in 2007. Haley has called the claim a "disgraceful smear" and said it is an attempt to derail her candidacy two weeks before the Republican primary. She is in a tight race with three other candidates.
Palin endorsed Haley this month. She said she warned Haley then that her and her family would be targeted.
Haley, a legislator vying to become the state's first female governor, said the allegation was planted to derail a campaign gaining steam with high-powered endorsements, including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and ex-South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford.
Folks, who offered no proof of the relationship and refused to go into any further details, pleaded guilty to criminal domestic violence in 2005 and is now a political consultant. He also runs FITSNews.com, a conservative site that features occasionally insightful commentary, thinly sourced stories of state political intrigue and photos of women in bikinis.
Folks' allegation comes nearly a year after Gov. Mark Sanford admitted to having an affair, and two weeks before the June 14 primary, a four-way contest that includes a congressman, the lieutenant governor and the state attorney general.
Haley said the attack was a distraction to the race.
"I have been 100 percent faithful to my husband throughout our 13 years of marriage. This claim against me is categorically and totally false," Haley, a 38-year-old mother of two, said in a statement. "It is quite simply South Carolina politics at its worst."
Last June, Sanford famously vanished from the state for five days, reappearing from a trip to Argentina to admit to an affair with a woman he later called his "soul mate." The scandal ended Sanford's marriage and led to calls for his resignation. He is term-limited and leaves office in January; in years past he had backed Haley's political aspirations, and his ex-wife campaigned with her earlier this month.
Folks said in a blog that he went public about the purported affair with Haley because political adversaries were leaking proof of it to media outlets to impugn his reputation and destroy her.
"The truth in this case is what it is," he wrote. "Several years ago, prior to my marriage, I had an inappropriate physical relationship with Nikki."
In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press prior to his blog post, Folks would not discuss details of the relationship.
"I'm not going to paint pictures," said Folks, who gave the interview on the condition his statements would not be published before he went public.
Folks wrote Monday that he would not give any additional interviews, and he didn't immediately return telephone messages.
He said he owes apologies only to Haley and her family, and to his own wife for failing to reveal the relationship earlier in their marriage. He wed in 2008.
Folks, a former Sanford spokesman, left the governor's administration in 2005, around the same time he pleaded guilty to the criminal domestic violence charge and received a 30-day suspended sentence. Folks kicked open the door at a home he shared with a lobbyist and shoved her into a piece of furniture, police said.
Folks had little political experience before joining Sanford's 2002 campaign. When Sanford won, the governor made the ball-cap wearing, alternative rock band-playing son of a college professor his spokesman.
His website refers to him as "Sic Willie," sports the tag line "Unfair. Imbalanced," and often promotes Haley's campaign. Besides running his website, Folks has worked on several successful political campaigns.
Folks said he did communications work for Haley, including writing speeches and news releases in 2007.
"I can sleep at night knowing I handled this the best way I knew how (the way my wife and I decided together that it needed to be handled), which was to simply tell the truth," Folks said in the article.
Haley, an accountant and three-term legislator, is in a tight race for the GOP nomination with Congressman Gresham Barrett, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer and Attorney General Henry McMaster.
At a debate Saturday night, the candidates were asked about Sanford's affair and if they would quit in similar circumstances.
None of the candidates said they would resign, and Haley said everyone was disappointed in Sanford. "We need to keep the Lord close, we need to keep our family close, we need to keep our friends close. And we need to make sure we are never put in those situations so that that can happen," Haley said.
State GOP chair Karen Floyd decried the "unsubstantiated personal attacks" in a statement.
"South Carolinians deserve a higher level of political discourse than this, and they frankly deserve a press corps that focuses on real, substantive issues rather than on Internet rumor mongering. ... I repudiate this attack, and I will defend the integrity of any of our gubernatorial candidates in the face of personal attacks of this nature," said Floyd, who last year led party efforts to formally rebuke Sanford.
Winthrop University political scientist Scott Huffmon said the allegations may affect some of Haley's high-profile support.
"There's literally no way to disprove a negative and that is going to stick to her no matter how hard she tries to shake it off," Huffmon said.
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