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Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail

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Sanford, who became a hero to fiscal conservatives in rejecting federal stimulus funds and has often been mentioned as a possible presidential prospect, said his trip to Argentina last week was to visit a woman with whom he struck up an e-mail relationship eight years ago.

That correspondence led to a close friendship that went into "serious overdrive" when he saw her three times this past year, he said.

His wife of nearly 20 years has known about the affair for five months and he is trying to reconcile with her, he said.

"I've been unfaithful to my wife," he said.

"I developed a relationship with what started 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." He added: "And as a consequence, I hurt her, I hurt you all, I hurt my wife, I hurt my boys, I hurt friends.




I hurt a lot of different folks.

And all I can say is that I apologize." The nearly 20-minute press conference was an extraordinary turn in one of the more unusual political episodes of the year, which began when questions about Sanford's whereabouts started circulating early this week.

He had left Columbia in a state-issued SUV Thursday, and his office said over the weekend that it knew his location, adding on Monday that he had simply gone off to "recharge after the stimulus battle." But the state's lieutenant governor expressed concern about whether staff members really did know where Sanford was.

Sanford's wife told reporters Monday that she did not know his location, speculating that "he was writing something and wanted some space to get away from the kids." On Monday evening, the governor's office said he was hiking on the Appalachian Trail.

But this morning, Sanford stepped off a plane from Buenos Aires at the Atlanta airport, before making his appearance at the press conference in Columbia.

The episode has ramifications for the national political landscape.

Sanford had emerged as one of the most visible and forceful critics of President Obama's agenda, to the delight of conservatives nationwide and to the chagrin of many in his own state, who despaired over his rejection of hundreds of millions of dollars in stimulus funding at a time when unemployment was surging in South Carolina.

Forced to step down after his current term by term limits, he was seen as a likely contender for the 2012 nomination.

Instead, he now finds himself as the second prominent Republican ensnared in revelations of adultery this month.


John Ensign (R-Nev.) acknowledged last week that he had an affair with a former staff member.

Ensign stepped down from his leadership position in the Senate; Sanford said today that he is stepping down as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, but did not address a shouted question about whether he would step down as governor.

Mississippi Gov.

Haley Barbour will take over the governors' association post.

Sanford is known for his quirky personality, and he took an unconventional approach to his remarks today, beginning with a lengthy preamble about his love for hiking on the Appalachian Trail and the need for getting outside the "bubble." Later, he said that he had in fact suggested to his staff that he was headed to the Appalachian Trail.

He then went into a lengthy discourse on the many different people he needed to seek forgiveness from, including his father-in-law, and all the people of South Carolina.

Only then did he announce the "bottom line," that he had committed adultery.

And he proceeded to elaborate in much detail about how the relationship developed with the woman, whom he did not name.

He said that it was "ironic" that the relationship had started when he was counseling her to stay with her husband.

He talked about the emotional dilemma he now found himself in, torn between his marriage and a woman whom he said he cared greatly for.

"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," he said.

"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.

And 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 [his former chief of staff] of the world.

This was selfishness on my part and for that I'm most apologetic." He said that his staff was not to blame for putting out false information about his hiking.

"That is my fault in shrouding this larger trip.

That's my fault.

That's my fault," he said.

"I didn't tell them, I just said, 'Hey guys, this is where I think I'm going to go.' .



They went on the original information that I had given."
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