When Gov. Mark Sanford’s (R-SC) five-day absence was noticed by the national media Monday, Sanford’s staff sought to quell concerns by telling reporters he was hiking the Appalachian Trail:
Then, at 10:01 p.m. Monday, [Communications Director Joel] Sawyer e-mailed reporters an update: “The governor is hiking along the Appalachian Trail. I apologize for taking so long to send this update, and was waiting to see if a more definitive idea of what part of the Trail he was on before we did so.”
On Tuesday morning, Sawyer said that Sanford had “called to check in with his chief of staff.” Yet he stuck with his claim that Sanford was hiking.
It turns out, however, that Sawyer was lying. This morning, reporters from The State caught up with Sanford at Atlanta’s Hartsville-Jackson International Airport, where he had just returned from a seven day trip to Beunos Aires, Argentina — nowhere near the Appalachian Trial. Sanford refused to say what he had been doing in South America, and offered no explanation for why his staff lied:
Sanford, in an exclusive interview with The State Media Company, said he decided at the last minute to go to the South American country to recharge after a difficult legislative session in which he battled with lawmakers over how to spend federal stimulus money.
Sanford said he had considered hiking on the Appalachian Trail, an activity he said he has enjoyed since he was a high school student. “But I said ‘no’ I wanted to do something exotic,” Sanford said “… It’s a great city.” [...]
Sanford said he was alone on the trip. He declined to give any additional details about what he did other than to say he drove along the coastline. … When asked why his staff said he was on the Appalachian Trail, Sanford replied, “I don’t know.”
Last night, South Carolina’s Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer (R) explained that during Sanford’s week-long vacation out of the country, Sanford never transferred executive authority, and that Sanford’s staff refused to tell Bauer where the governor was. “If another emergency were at hand right now, we don’t have a way to contact our governor, and so that concerns me,” he said.
As of 5 p.m. last night, Sanford’s staff continued to insist the governor was hiking — even after Greenville’s News 4 reported that sources spotted Sanford at the Atlanta airport last week:
News 4 called the governor’s office, and was told again by staffers that they stand by their original statement that the governor is hiking the Appalachian Trail. They did not want to comment on this story.
,Atrios comments that “one conceit journalists have is that sources can’t lie to them because if they do they will use their power to punish those who lied to them. This never actually seems to happen.”
,Fox News reports that Sanford will hold a press conference today at 2 p.m. EST.
,Sanford put out a statement after his press conference today saying that he “misled” his staff, and that his staff did not knowingly lie:
I apologize to my staff. I misled them about my whereabouts, and as a result the people of South Carolina believed something that wasn’t true. I want to make absolutely clear that over the past two days at no time did anyone on my staff intentionally relay false information to other state officials or the public at large. What they’ve said over the past two days they believed to be true, and I’m sorry to them for putting them in this position.