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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford is apologizing to his wife, kids and staff after his mystery trip to Argentina.At a Wednesday afternoon news conference, he admitted he's been unfaithful to his wife with a friend from Argentina, and that he and his family have been working through it for about the last five months.Said Sanford, "The bottom line is this.

I've been unfaithful to my wife.

I have developed a relationship with a...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 email back and forth in advice in one's life there and advice here, but here recently over this past year that developed into something much more than that.

And as a consequence, it 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 I apologize."Sanford says he met the woman about eight years ago and it became romantic about a year ago.

"I've spent the last five days crying in Argentina," said Sanford.He also resigned as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, but when asked if he'd resign as governor of South Carolina, he did not respond.Originally, it was believed Sanford�took a hike on the Appalachian Trail.

But Wednesday morning, CNN reported that Sanford told a reporter with the State newspaper at the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta that he was returning from a seven day visit to Buenos Aires, Argentina.Sanford said he had not been hiking along the Appalachian Trail, as his staff said in a Tuesday statement to the media.�Sanford's whereabouts had been unknown since last Thursday, and the mystery surrounding his absence fueled speculation about where he had been and who's in charge in his absence.����The�state-issued SUV that the governor allegedly took off in was found in the parking lot of the Columbia Metropolitan Airport late Tuesday, several media reports�state.The Governor's spokesperson, Joel Sawyer, says Sanford will answer questions from the media in his office at 2pm.�We plan on streaming it live right here on wistv.com.SLED officials told WIS that they cannot confirm that the vehicle belongs to SLED or if it was the one the governor was using.Sanford will be returning to work on Wednesday after his trip, which was designed to help him "recharge" after the stimulus battle and a busy legislative session, according to his office.But Sanford's trip quickly became national headlines after his wife, Jenny, told the Associated Press on Monday she had not spoken with her husband for several days, including Father's Day.

The governor's staff said Sanford told them he would be out of contact for a few days.It wasn't until Monday night that the governor's office released a statement revealing where Sanford went on his trip -- they said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail.

On Tuesday morning, the governor's office said he would be cutting his trip short."Governor Sanford called to check in with his chief of staff this morning," Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer said Tuesday in a statement.

"It would be fair to say the governor was somewhat taken aback by all of the interest this trip has gotten.

Given the circumstances and the attention this has garnered, the governor communicated to us that he plans on returning to the office tomorrow."While this story has been used as fodder for some, it was pretty serious for others, including Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell who responded by proposing new legislation -- one bill to further define part of the state constitution that sets out who's in charge in the event of the governor's "temporary absence" from the state, and another that would mandate security coverage for both the governor and lieutenant governor.That was after it became clear Sanford had ditched his security detail before heading out of the state.Some of the criticism aimed at the governor suggests he left without telling enough people where he was going.Lt.

Gov.

Andrew Bauer said he'd been rebuffed by the governor's staff when he tried to find out where Sanford was and had not been put in charge in his absence."I cannot take lightly that his staff has not had communication with him for more than four days, and that no one, including his own family, knows his whereabouts," said Bauer.Bauer appeared on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show and reiterated that he's still largely in the dark about Sanford's whereabouts."A lot of what I know I've gained has been through the news media," said Bauer.Carol Fowler, chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, said the governor was "irresponsible" for being inaccessible.

"I don't begrudge the governor's vacation time," Fowler said Tuesday morning.

"But they need to make certain their duties are taken care of while they're gone."Sanford is known for taking walks and runs without security, but flight logs show he seldom leaves the state without it.

His security team wouldn't comment.

And Sanford's office normally makes no secret of time he spends on vacation or out of state.Sen.

Jake Knotts, a Lexington Republican and a persistent Sanford critic, said the state needs to know where its governor is."The way things are in the world today and homeland security, we need the governor to be fingertips away," Knotts said.Sanford's supporters are now lobbing accusations that this whole thing has been blown out of proportion.Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom says the governor's critics were making a mountain out of a molehill.

Senator Greg Ryberg also saying the uproar has been generated by Sanford's political enemies and that his staff was able to find him on a trade mission in Estonia in 2007 to notify him of the deadly Sofa Superstore fire.

Bob McAlister, former chief of staff for Governor Carroll Campbell, says Sanford has the right to do what he pleases."He's got a perfect right to take a vacation, it's none of the media's business.

He has a perfect right to ditch his SLED detail for a while, that's none of the media's business.

To me it all boils down to did anybody in an official capacity know where he was and how he could be reached.

I'm not sure that question has been answered.

I imagine he'll address that when he gets back to Columbia," said McAlister.

Now new questions have arise about Sanford's political future.

He is frequently listed as a potential Republican candidate for president in 2012.

Many now wonder if this incident has damaged his future."Ronald Reagan took off horseback riding.

So again, what the governor does in his spare time, how he relaxes, that's his business.

The good judgement comes into play; are you still available in case you're constitutionally needed?" said McAlister.Copyright 2009 WIS.

All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP contributed to this report.



http://www.wistv.com/Global/story.asp?S=10589720
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