ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
A mystery was solved in South Carolina today. Governor Mark Sanford, a Republican, disappeared late last week. On Monday, his staff announced the governor was hiking on the Appalachian Trail. Not so. Today Governor Sanford returned home with an emotional confession. He's having an affair that took him not to Appalachia, but to Argentina.
Governor MARK SANFORD (Republican, South Carolina): It began very innocently, as I suspect many of these things do, in just a casual email back and forth and advice on what it's like there and advice here. But here, recently, over this past year, it developed into something much more than that.
BLOCK: Sanford was presumed to be a 2012 presidential hopeful. Today he resigned as chairman of the Republican Governors Association.
Julie Rose of member station WFAE has more from Columbia, South Carolina.
(Soundbite of phone ringing)
JULIE ROSE: The phones rang off the hook today at Governor Sanford's office.
Unidentified Woman: Governor Mark Sanford's office, this is (unintelligible).
ROSE: The receptionist said these calls are normal, but seconds later, she got one that sounded suspiciously like someone asking where the governor was. Sanford's disappearance puzzled his allies, who admit he can be eccentric at times. Even his harshest critics in the state legislature seemed surprised when the governor stood before an enormous crowd of reporters and said…
Gov. SANFORD: I have been unfaithful to my wife. I developed a relationship with a - what started out as a dear, dear friend from Argentina.
ROSE: Sanford spent a few minutes warming up to his bombshell with a long list of apologies to his wife, his children and his staff, whom he says he mislead by dropping hints that was going hiking.
Gov. SANFORD: And so I let them down by creating a fiction with regard to where I was going, which means that I then, in turn, given as much as they relied on that information, let down the people that I represent across this state.
ROSE: Sanford says he met the woman eight years ago and initially carried on a casual friendship by email, but it developed into something more last year. And he said his wife, Jenny, has known about the affair for several months. She released a statement saying she asked the governor for a trial separation two weeks ago.
Gov. SANFORD: I've let down a lot of people - that's the bottom line. And I let them down, and in every instance, I would ask their forgiveness. Forgiveness is not an immediate process. It is, in fact, a process that takes time, and I'll be in that process for quite some weeks, and months and I suspect years ahead.
ROSE: Sanford says he will resign as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, but did not respond when asked if he would resign as governor of South Carolina. Democratic State Representative Todd Rutherford came to the press conference expecting to hear the governor's spin.
Representative TODD RUTHERFORD (Democrat, South Carolina): This was the last thing that I expected. So, for him to come and stand there and admit it today was just shocking to me. I think most people were stunned. But I'm a little shocked that he's not going to resign as governor. I think the embarrassment that he's caused the state on top of the embarrassment that he caused his family and his kids on Fathers' Day is enough. Why keep going? Why keep letting this be a story? He should've resigned immediately.
ROSE: But Republican Senator Jake Knotts, who's one of the governor's most vocal critics, softened his tone after Sanford admitted the affair.
Senator JAKE KNOTTS (Republican, South Carolina): I saw a governor that didn't look out to try to find a scapegoat, which, you know, he owned up to his own problems that he admittedly brought on himself. He asked for forgiveness, and I accept that and I forgive him. I mean, you know, I want to do anything I can to help him.
ROSE: Governor Sanford says he'll spend the next several months trying to reconcile with his wife and offering personal apologies to the people of South Carolina.
For NPR News, I'm Julie Rose in Columbia.
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