South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford had a rather rude awakening when he arrived at the Atlanta airport from his Buenos Aires flight today. A reporter from South Carolina's largest newspaper, The State, confronted Sanford about the reason his staff had lied about his whereabouts since last Thursday.
Initially the South Carolina governor's office indicated they didn't know where Sanford had gone. Then they began reporting that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail and was unreachable. The truth of the matter is that Sanford spent the last five days with his Argentine girlfriend. The two met a year ago and the relationship moved swiftly from innocent to romantic.
Sanford held a press conference earlier today (see video below) to apologize for his extra-marital affair. He explained that his wife Jenny has been aware of the other woman for about five months now. The couple, who have four young sons, began a trial separation two weeks ago. Jenny Sanford said the unofficial split was initiated by her in order "to maintain my dignity, self respect and my basic sense of right and wrong."
In a written statement, Sanford's wife went on to say, "I believe wholeheartedly in the sanctity, dignity and importance of the institution of marriage. I believe that enduring love is primarily a commitment and an act of will, and for a commitment to be successful it must be reciprocal. I remain willing to forgive Mark for his indiscretions and to welcome him back, in time, if he continues to work toward reconciliation with a true spirit of humility and repentance."
Jenny Sanford, a millionaire whose family owns Skil, the power tool company, was a Wall Street vice president of mergers and acquisitions at Lazard Freres before leaving to run her husband's three successful campaign bids for House of Representatives as well as his first gubernatorial run. Until recently, she was involved in many of the governor's morning meetings with his top staff.
In an effort to appease those who may want to call for his resignation, he has resigned as Chairman of the Republican Governors Association. No word on whether his post as governor is also in jeopardy. He is in his second term and cannot run for a third.
This is the second high profile politician to reveal an illicit affair this week. Nevada Senator John Ensign admitted to having an affair with Cynthia Hampton, his former campaign treasurer - see photos and details here.
View photos and press conference video admission below.