Mark SanfordMarkSanford

What was the accusation?

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford disappeared for 6 days in June of 2009.  Nobody, including is wife, his security detail, and his office staff knew where he was.  When the press became interested in Sanford’s whereabouts, his spokesperson Joel Sawyer told them the governor was hiking the Appalachian trail.  However, a local journalist for The State newspaper received that tip that Sanford was in Argentina.  On a hunch, she waited at the Atlanta airport for flights coming in from South America.  She surprised Sanford at the airport when he arrived and he told her that he changed his mind about hiking the Appalachians and wanted to do something more “exotic.”  He eventually came clean in a press conference a few hours later where he admitted to having an affair with an Argentinian journalist named  Maria Belen Chapur.  One issue that made the scandal a larger spectacle in the media was the release of emails the governor had sent to his mistress.  Some of the sentiments expressed were: “I could digress and say that you have the ability to give magnificently gentle kisses, or that I love your tan lines or that I love the curves of your hips, the erotic beauty of you holding yourself (or two magnificent parts of yourself) in the faded glow of night’s light.”  Sanford’s term as governor ended in spite of several resolutions calling for an earlier impeachment.  He divorced from his wife and continued to pursue a long-term relationship with Chapur.

Key Apologia Strategies:

Mortification, Corrective Action, Minimization

Video of Sanford’s Press Conference (Part 1 of 2)

Video of Sanford’s Press Conference (Part 2 of 2)

Transcript of Sanford’s Press Conference

Following is a transcript of a press briefing at which Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina addressed his extramarital affair on June 24, 2009, as transcribed by Federal News Service.

GOV. MARK SANFORD: Okay. You all ready? Everybody ready?

I won’t begin in any particular spot. Let me just start with — I don’t see — where’s Gina Smith?

STAFF: She’s not here

SANFORD: She’s not here? Okay.

I had a conversation with Gina Smith this morning when I arrived in Atlanta, and I told her about my love of the Appalachian Trail. And I used to organize hiking trips, actually, when I was in high school. I would get a soccer coach or a football coach to act as chaperone, and then I’d get folks to pay me 60 bucks each, or whatever it was, to take the trip, and then off we’d go and have these great adventures on the Appalachian Trail.

And I told her of adventure trips both in college — I was a campus representative for Eastern Airlines and could fly free, which meant I’d fly different places around the world; get myself a job; carry a hundred dollars emergency money, and either find a job there with the locals and come back, or come on home.

Told her about my years in Congress and early years in the governorship, of different adventure trips, of leaving and traveling different places. Because what I have found in this job is that one desperately needs a break from the bubble wherein every word, every moment is recorded — just to completely break. And I’ve found that to be true in trips to the farm or in trips other places further afield. And all of those things were true.

I talked about the profound frustrations that I felt over this last legislative session in the battle that was in place with regard to the stimulus package, the $700 million in play, and how at an emotional level I found it exhausting. I tried to make as good a stand as I could — not for a further political office. What was interesting was, it was always viewed as, “You’re doing this to climb some further political office.” It was always based on that idea, that I genuinely believed that that action would be bad for the taxpayers and made the stand as I did.

So all those things we talked about this morning were true, but they’re not the whole story. And that’s obviously why everybody’s gathered here right now.

And so, let me lay out that larger story that has attracted so many of you all here. I’m a bottom-line kind of — kind of guy.

I’ll lay it out. It’s going to hurt. And we’ll let the chips fall where they may.

In so doing, let me first of all apologize to my wife Jenny and our four great boys, Marshall, Landon, Bolton and Blake, for letting them down. One of the primary roles, well before being a governor, is being a father to those four boys, who are absolute jewels and blessings, that I’ve let down in a profound way. And I apologize to them.

And I don’t like apologizing in this realm, but given the immediacy of y’all’s wanting to visit and my proximity to them, this is the first step in what will be a very long process on that front.

I would secondly say to Jenny, anybody who has observed her over the last 20 years of my life knows how closely she has stood by my side in campaign after campaign after campaign, in literally being my campaign manager and in the raising of those four boys and in a whole host of other things throughout the lives that we’ve built together.

I would also apologize to my staff, because as much as I did talk about going to the Appalachian Trail, that was one of the original scenarios that I’d thrown out to Mary Neil (sp), that isn’t what — where I ended up. And so I let them down by creating a fiction with regard to where I was going, which means that I had then, in turn, given as much as they relied on that information, let down people that I represent across this state. And so I want to apologize to my staff and I want to apologize to anybody who lives in South Carolina for the way that I let them down on that front.

I want to apologize to good friends. Tom Davis came over to the house. He drove up from Beaufort. And he has been an incredibly dear friend for a very long time. In my first race for governor, he moved up and he lived in the basement of our house for six months. We called it Jurassic Park because it was the kids’ dinosaur sheets and all kinds of different folks were living there in the campaign. And he gave of his time and his talent and his effort for ideas that he believed in, to try and make a difference in those ideas. And so I, in a very profound way, have let down the Tom Davises of the world.

On the ride over here, I called the house, and in the background I could hear my parents-in-laws, who’d come up to be with Jenny, and I’ve let them down. I had the most, you know, surreal of conversations a number of weeks ago with my father-in-law, laying some cards on the table. And he was incredibly gentlemanly, as you cannot imagine, in saying here were some things that I was struggling with — regard to where my heart was, where I was in life, those different kinds of things. And I let him down.

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.

But I’m here because if you were to look at God’s laws, they’re in every instance designed to protect people from themselves. I think that that is the bottom line of God’s law, that it’s not a moral, rigid list of do’s and don’ts just for the heck of do’s and don’ts. It is indeed to protect us from ourselves. And the biggest self of self is, indeed, self; that sin is, in fact, grounded in this notion of what is it that I want as opposed to somebody else?

And in this regard, let me throw one more apology out there, and that is to people of faith across South Carolina, or for that matter, across the nation, because I think that one of the big disappointments when — believe it or not, I’ve been a person of faith all my life. If somebody falls within the fellowship of believers or the walk of faith, I think it makes it that much harder for believers to say, “Well, where was that person coming from?” or folks that weren’t believers to say, “Where indeed was that person coming from?” So one more apology in there.

But I guess where I’m trying to go with this is that there are moral absolutes and that God’s law indeed is there to protect you from yourself, and there are consequences if you breach that. This press conference is a consequence.

And so the bottom line is this: I have been unfaithful to my wife. I developed a relationship with a — what started out as a dear, dear friend from Argentina. It began very innocently, as I suspect many of these things do, in just a casual e-mail back and forth, in advice on one’s life there and advice here.

But here recently over this last year, it developed into something much more than that. And as a consequence, I hurt her. I hurt you all. I hurt my wife. I hurt my boys. I hurt friends like Tom Davis. I hurt a lot of different folks. And all I can say is that I apologize.

I — I — I would ask for y’all’s — I guess I’m not deserving of indulgence, but indulgence not for me, but for Jenny and the boys. You know, there are a team of cameras and crews and all those sorts of things camped out down at Sullivan’s Island.

And I would just ask for a zone of privacy, if not for me, for her and the boys. As we go through this process of working through this, there are going to be some hard decisions to be made, to be dealt with, and those are probably not best dealt with through the prism of television cameras and media headlines.

You know, I’m committed to that process of walking through with Jenny, the boys, with the Tom Davises of the world, with the people of South Carolina, in — in saying where do we go from here. I — (pause) — I would simply say I go back to that simple word of asking for forgiveness. I — just as a declarative statement, one more, before we open up for a couple questions, and then I’ll move on.

You know, I’ve tried to think of, you know, first — one of the first steps is clearing more out time as we go through this process of reconciliation, of figuring out what comes next. I’m going to resign as chairman of Republican Governors Association. I’m going to tender my resignation, one, because I think it’s the appropriate thing to do, given other governors across this nation and my role as chairman of the RGA; and two, frankly, just from the standpoint of time.

You know, if I think about this process, not only does it begin at a family level, it begins with the family of South Carolinians. And so that means me going one by one and town by town to talk to a lot of old friends across this state in — in what I’ve done and, indeed, asking for their forgiveness. That’ll take time, time that I probably can’t devote to the RGA.


QUESTION: Governor —

QUESTION: Governor, what happens next two weeks?

QUESTION: — are you trying to reconcile with Jenny?

SANFORD: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: Are you trying to reconcile with Jenny?

SANFORD: I am, yeah.

QUESTION: Are you separated — you have not separated?

SANFORD: What’s that?

QUESTION: Are you separated from the first lady?

SANFORD: I — I don’t know how you want to define that. I mean, I’m here and she’s there. I guess in a formal sense we’re not. But you know, what we’re — what we’re trying to do is work through something that, you know, we’ve been working through for a number of months now.

QUESTION: Are you —

QUESTION: Did your wife and your family know about the affair before the trip to Argentina?


QUESTION: Are you —

QUESTION: For how long —

SANFORD: We — we — we’ve been — we’ve been working through this thing for about the last five months. I’ve been to a lot of different — I was part of a group called C Street when I was in Washington. It was a, believe it or not, a Christian Bible study; some folks that asked of members of Congress hard questions that I think were very, very important. And I’ve been working with them.

I see Cubby Culbertson in the back of the room. I would consider him a spiritual giant and — (cross talk) —

QUESTION: (Off mike) —

SANFORD: — hang on — and an incredibly dear friend. And he has been helping us work through this over these last five months. And Cubby, I want to say thank you for being there as a friend.

QUESTION: Why did you —

(Cross talk.)

QUESTION: (Off mike) — the first and only time you’ve been unfaithful?

QUESTION: (Off mike) — are you considering that?


What’s that?

QUESTION: The first and only time you’ve been unfaithful?




QUESTION: Were you alone in Argentina?

QUESTION: Did you break off the relationship?

SANFORD: Obviously not.

What’s that?

QUESTION: Were you alone?

SANFORD: Obviously not.


QUESTION: Did you break off the relationship?

SANFORD: The — no, it was interesting in how this thing has gone down, John. To give you way more detail than you’ll ever want, I met this person a little over eight years ago — again, very innocently — and struck up a conversation.

And I want to go back to the bubble of politics. This is not justifying, because, again, what I did was wrong, period, end of story.

QUESTION: (Off mike) — did you — (off mike).

SANFORD: Okay. Wait, wait, wait, wait. Could — wait. No, I didn’t.

QUESTION: (Off mike.)

SANFORD: I had my own ticket.

QUESTION: (Off mike.)

SANFORD: Wait, wait. (Cross talk.) Guys, let — one question at a time. Is that fair enough?

The — and there’s a certain irony to this, but this person at the time was separated. And we ended up in this incredibly serious conversation about why she ought to get back with her husband for the sake of her two boys; that not only was it part of God’s law, but ultimately those two boys would be better off for it.

And we had this incredibly earnest conversation and at the end of it said, “Well, could I get your e-mail?” We swapped e-mails, whatever. And it began just on a very casual basis — “Hey, I’ve got this issue that’s come up with my life,” or vice versa. “What do you think?” Because when you live in the zone of politics, you can’t ever let your guard down. You can’t ever say, “What do you think” or “What do you think,” because it could be a front-page story or this story or that story.

And so there was this zone of protectiveness, in that she lives thousands of miles away and I was up here, and you could throw an idea out or vice versa. And we developed a remarkable friendship over those eight years.

And then, as I said, about a year ago, it sparked into something more than that. I have seen her three times since then, during that whole sparking thing. And it was discovered —

QUESTION: (Off mike) —

SANFORD: — let me finish — five months ago. And at that point, we went into serious overdrive in trying to say, “Where do you go from here,” and that’s where the Cubby Culbertsons and the others of the world began to help with, you know, how do you get all this right? How do you, again, be honest?

And so I’ve been back and forth and back and forth and back and forth. And the one thing that you really find is that you absolutely want resolution.

And so oddly enough, I spent the last five days of my life crying in Argentina, so I could repeat it when I came back here in saying, you know, while indeed from a heart level, there was something real, it was a place based on the fiduciary relationship I had, to the people of South Carolina, based on my boys, based on my wife, based on where I was in life, based on where she was in life, a place I couldn’t go and she couldn’t go.

And that is, I suspect, a continual process all through life, of getting one’s heart right in life. And so I would never stand before you as one who just says, you know, I’m completely right with regard to my heart on all things.

But what I would say is, I’m committed to trying to get my heart right. Because the one thing that — (inaudible) — and all others have told me is that the odyssey that we’re all on in life is with regard to heart, not what I want or what you want but, in other words, indeed this larger notion of truly trying to put other people first.

I suspect if I’d really put this other person first, I wouldn’t have jeopardized her life, as I have. I certainly wouldn’t have done it to my wife. I wouldn’t have done it to my boys. I wouldn’t have done it to the Tom Davises of the world.

This was selfishness on my part. And for that, I’m most apologetic.

(Cross talk.)

Last question. Over there.

QUESTION: (Off mike.)


(Cross talk.)

QUESTION: Did you intentionally mislead your staff about hiking the trail? Did you intentionally mislead your staff about where you were?

QUESTION: And did you talk to them, at any point, when you were in Argentina; your staff?

SANFORD: Yeah. In other words, they called. I called them back on Monday. And —

QUESTION: But when you left, did you intentionally —

SANFORD: No, no, no, no. We talked about that. In other words, let me be clear. I said that was originally a possibility. Again that is my fault in shrouding this larger trip. That’s my fault. That’s my fault.

QUESTION: Did you tell your staff to tell the press that you were hiking the Appalachian Trail?

SANFORD: I didn’t tell them. I just said, hey, guys, this is where I think I’m going to go. So in other words, they would have deducted it from that.

QUESTION: (Off mike.)

SANFORD: No, no, no, no, no. I did — in other words — no, no, no, no.

They went on the original information that I’d given — (inaudible) — who handles the schedule for us.

QUESTION: Governor —

SANFORD: (Yeah ?), last question.

QUESTION: Have you —

SANFORD: I tell you —

QUESTION: Governor, in going there on Father’s Day weekend —

SANFORD: Okay. Yeah. Right, right, right.

QUESTION: Did they have a choice about —

SANFORD: Okay. Yeah. Go ahead. Yeah. Yeah.

QUESTION: Have you asked any of the state employees to cover up this affair for you?

SANFORD: No. Absolutely not.

QUESTION: Do you still have —

QUESTION: Governor —

QUESTION: Did you ask your staff to cover up the affair?

SANFORD: No. Absolutely not.

QUESTION: Governor —

QUESTION: Your reaction to those in your party and your lieutenant governor that call this irresponsible and are disappointed in your decision to do this?

SANFORD: At this point, it would be obvious that they and others would be disappointed, and that I’ve disappointed them and others. And so — and so —

QUESTION: Why did you keep —

STAFF: That’s all.

SANFORD: Okay. All right.

QUESTION: Will you resign as governor?

SANFORD: Thank you. All right.

QUESTION: Joel, is the governor going to resign?

STAFF: Thank you.


Brown, R., & Dewan, S. (2009, June 24). Mysteries remain after governor admits an affair. New York Times. Retrieved from:

Doyle, L. (2009, June 25). South Carolina governor mark Sanford makes tearful apology over affair. The Telegraph (UK). Retrieved from:

Rucker, P., & Roig-Franzia, M. (2009, June 25). S.C. governor Sanford admits to an affair. Washington Post. Retrieved from: