COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC) - COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A political blogger and former aide to Gov. Mark Sanford claims to have had a past romantic relationship with Republican gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley. Haley, who is married and has two children, "emphatically" denied the claim Monday morning.
"Several years ago, prior to my marriage, I had an inappropriate physical relationship with Nikki," Will Folks announced Monday morning on his political blog, FITSNews. Folks said political opponents of Haley and himself were leaking evidence of the affair to the press, and claimed the story would've come out this week no matter what.
"I will not be discussing the details of that relationship, nor will I be granting any additional interviews about it to members of the media beyond what I have already been compelled to confirm," Folks continued. The blogger did not say when the alleged relationship took place or whether Haley was married at the time, and gave no proof of an affair.
"I have been 100% faithful to my husband throughout our 13 years of marriage," Haley responded in a statement. "This claim against me is categorically and totally false." Rep. Haley called Folks' allegations "South Carolina politics at its worst," though Folks and his website have often supported Haley and her political aims in the past.
About an hour after Folks announced the affair, Rep. Haley canceled an interview with WIS News 10 in Columbia that had been previously scheduled for Monday morning and had been confirmed by the campaign before the FITSNews page went live.
State GOP Party Chair issued a statement late Monday morning condeming the attack, calling it an "unsubstantiated personal attack."
"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," said Floyd in the release.
She went on to say she would defend Haley, and any other gubernatorial candidate that might face such an attack.
Haley recently rocketed to the front of the polls in the Republican race for governor after being publicly endorsed by Republican icon Sarah Palin and former first lady Jenny Sanford. Ms. Sanford, who divorced her husband after the governor announced an extramarital affair of his own, has not commented on the news of Haley's alleged affair.
Palin published a comment on her Facebook page Monday afternoon after the rumor of Haley's affair spread across the internet. Palin said it was "quite convenient" that blogger Folks made the allegation and then said he would not talk any further about it.
Haley was once a close political ally of Gov. Sanford, but somewhat distanced herself from him after Sanford's affair came to light. Haley said the governor had "fallen short" in his behavior, but refused to join calls for his resignation. The Sanford-affiliated group ReformSC recently spent $400,000 on pro-Haley ads, and Jenny Sanford even compared Haley to her former husband in her endorsement of Haley.
Haley and the other candidates for governor recently participated in a debate sponsored by the Palmetto Family Council where they spoke about being maritally faithful while serving in politics. "You are being held to a higher standard and so you have much more service you have to give and you're a role model to everybody that follows you," Haley said during the debate.
Neither Ms. Sanford nor Gov. Palin have said whether they still support Haley. Regardless, news of Folks' claim may still hurt Haley's political chances heading into the GOP primary on June 8.