NPR logo SC Gov. Mark Sanford Admits To Having Affair

SC Gov. Mark Sanford Admits To Having Affair

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford wipes his tears as he admitted to having an affair during a news conference in Columbia, S.C Wednesday, June 24, 2009. AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain) hide caption

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AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)

After long, rambling and sometimes emotional introductory remarks, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford admitted to having an affair with a woman in Argentina.

He said:

"The bottom line is this, I've been unfaithful to my wife. I developed a relationship with a dear, dear friend in Argentina. It started as I guess many of these things do, a casual e-mail back and forth. Here recently over the last year, it developed as something much more than that. As a consequence I hurt her, my wife Jenny, my boys ... I hurt a lot a lot of different folks."

Sanford said his family has known for five months. He also said he is resigning as chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

UPDATE, 2:49 PM: Sanford said he knew the woman he had the affair with for 8 years. He also said he had spent the "last five days in Argentina crying." The governor also indicated that he would try to work through the issues with his family.

After taking several questions, Sanford, who fought back tears at several moments, left the press conference.

State Sen. Jake Knotts Jr., a Republican, told MSNBC that he had "tears in his heart" after hearing the governor's confession and apology, that he accepted the apology and would work to help the governor get through his difficulties.

This is the same Knotts who just hours ago was said "Lies, lies, lies," of the false information provided by the governor's office that their boss had gone hiking on the Appalachian Trail. The governor said his aides didn't knowingly mislead, that he had misled them.

In a Jan. 10, 2007 file photo, Gov. Mark Sanford takes the oath of office for a second term with his wife Jenny and sons at the Statehouse in Columbia, S.C. AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain, File hide caption

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AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain, File

Update 3:00 PM — Just some thoughts now that we've all had a chance to cool off after that press conference.

When Sanford explained he was having an affair with a woman in Argentina, it actually felt somewhat anticlimactic since many people suspected as much anyway. What else would explain the governor's strange behavior or all the mystery surrounding his whereabouts?

The governor clearly has bigger worries than his future in politics but it's self-evident that whatever aspirations he had for higher officer existed have been severely damaged. He would have to have a political star power of the highest order to get past something like this and onto a national political ticket and he just isn't that kind of politician.

There as so many questions about Sanford's judgment? That he thought he could leave South Carolina more than once without telling his aides or other state officials his whereabouts is stunning.

Coming after Sen. John Ensign's admission of an extramarital affair, today's admission by Sanford is just another body blow for Republicans as the party of family values. Hard to run on your moral superiority when it doesn't exist.

My NPR colleague Ken Rudin of the Political Junkie blog writes colorfully, as always, about today's extraordinary press conference. An excerpt:

Speechless. Stunned. Incredulous.

And yet, should I be?

Yes, he was missing for six days. Yes, his staff kept giving conflicting stories as to where he was. And yes, such circumstances certainly suggested some kind of tomfoolery was going on.

But when Mark Sanford, the governor of South Carolina widely seen as a Republican presidential hopeful for 2012, stood before the cameras today in Columbia and confessed to an ongoing affair with a woman in Argentina, we could have fallen off our chairs.

As you'd expect, The State, South Carolina's largest newspaper, is all over this story and I recommend their coverage for all the South Carolina reaction etc.