Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Sanford and Fun: Newspaper Exposes E-Mails

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Sanford and Fun: Newspaper Exposes E-Mails

Article excerpt

Mark Sanford, the governor of South Carolina and rumored 2012 presidential contender tearfully confessed Wednesday to having an affair with a woman in Argentina, dealing the latest blow to a struggling Republican Party.

A few hours later, The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C. published on its Web site emails between the governor and his lover that it said it had obtained last December.

It did not say how it had obtained the emails, which included references to kissing and sexual enticement. Another angle: Did he write them on state time using a state computer?

A reporter for the paper, Gina Smith, had broken the story open earlier today when she interviewed the governor on his return from Argentina at the the airport in Atlanta. This likely forced him to admit to the affair and drop his claim that he had simply been hiking on the Appalachian Trial for several days.

The New York Times now reports: "About six months ago, an anonymous tipster sent The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., copies of e-mail messages supposedly exchanged between Gov. Mark Sanford and a woman named Maria in Argentina.

"Reporters sent e-mail back to the originating e-mail address and to the woman, whose e-mail address was included, in an effort to verify that the messages were genuine. They never heard back, and so the paper did not publish them until Wednesday, after Mr. Sanford admitted having an affair. 'We had not determined they were authentic,' Leroy Chapman, the political editor at The State, said of the e-mail. 'What it was, was a puzzle piece that was hardly discernible.'"

Chapman said he still did not know who tipped the paper to the emails.

In the Thursday paper, and online, The State published additional emails between Sanford and the woman.

[Tell E&P what you think of the decision to withhold and then publish the emails: Go now to the Pub via this link.]

Sanford, who caused a ruckus after he could not be located by staff, family and friends for several days, apologized to his wife and four sons and said he will resign as head of the Republican Governors Association.

"I've been unfaithful to my wife," he said in a bombshell news conference in which the 49-year-old governor ruminated aloud with remarkable frankness on God's law, moral absolutes and following one's heart. He said he spent the last five days "crying in Argentina." His family did not attend.

At least one state lawmaker called for his resignation. As a congressman, Sanford voted in favor of three of four articles of impeachment against Democratic President Bill Clinton citing the need for "moral legitimacy."

Sanford's infidelity admission adds to an ever-growing list of woes for the out-of-power Republican Party as it looks to rebound against the popular President Barack Obama and his emboldened Democrats. The episode is another distraction for a party seeking a turnaround after disastrous losses in consecutive national elections as it confronts a stark reality: its less than diverse ranks are steadily shrinking, its regional heft is limited to the South and it lacks a leader of stature to guide the party back to power.

As for the emails: The governor's office wouldn't discuss the emails with The Associated Press, but told The State it wouldn't dispute the authenticity of the messages. …

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