Nikki Haley, Will Folks: South Carolina politics as usual

There was never a point at which I thought South Carolina politics would get boring or clean. It would be like expecting a profitable whore to come off the streets or Lt. Governor Andre Bauer to work for a living: a practice in futility.

[I couldn’t get past this sentence before my wife jumped up in Bauer’s defense. “He works very hard,” she proclaimed, “at not working. No one is going to knock on more doors than Andre Bauer!”]

But even I, among the most jaded for former political reporters in the Palmetto state’s past decade, found this morning’s developments to be more tawdry and generally icky than usual.

Will Folks, Governor Mark Sanford’s former spokesman, announced on his popular website this morning that he once had an “inappropriate physical relationship” with Nikki Haley.

Darling Nikki? Say it ain’t so. Sticky Nikki? So sad.

Sarah Palin and Nikki Haley

For those who aren’t fortunate enough to live in the Soap Opera State, you should know South Carolina is about to conduct its Republican primary for Governor. Nikki Haley, a state representative, was the dark horse in the race. However, in the past few weeks–especially after receiving endorsements from Jenny Sanford (yes, Mark Sanford’s ex-wife) and Sarah Palin, Haley jumped out to a surprising and scary lead. Something had to be done, apparently.

See, it is generally assumed that whoever wins this primary will be the next South Carolina Governor (the Democrats are off polishing their bleeding heart, hugging trees, and protecting the rights of black folk, or so I hear). So many people had laid claim to the seat, no one thought to look at Sticky Nikki. I’ll admit, I’ve been around the scene for a long time and I didn’t know who she was until a few weeks ago. I did know her opponents, however, and all too well.

  • Henry McMaster–The South Carolina Attorney General, a position for which he ran only as a stepping stone to the head of state. Loves everything I hate and hates everything I love.
  • Andre Bauer–Likes to drive fast, uses his role as a state leader (Lt. Governor) to get out of tickets, and crashes planes. Look up pandering in the dictionary and you’ll see a picture of Bauer’s head sticking out of a shirt that is two sizes too big for him.
  • Gresham Barrett–Milquetoast. Congressman. Named Gresham. The target of an infidelity smear of his own.
  • One of those guys was almost certainly going to be Governor (I figured McMaster, but I don’t know much about much anymore). Then came Nikki Haley, her high-profile endorsements, and her meteoric rise through the polls. Then came the story that is almost certainly being titled by old school GOPers as The Bitch and the Blogger.

    Will Folks (courtesy Barbecue and Politics)

    The short version: After Will Folks (picture at left) left Sanford’s office and dealt with a few problems of his own, he started up a website that has since become The Place for political muckraking in South Carolina. It became a pretty popular blog and Folks made even more enemies than he had when he worked for Sanford. He seemed to revel in the role.

    Today he reported that political operatives were threatening to out his prior relationship (which he says occurred before he was married) with the presumably already-married Haley. Folks decided to just drop the ball himself and admitted to it.

    Haley, for her part, was unequivocal. “I have been 100% faithful to my husband throughout our 13 years of marriage. This claim against me is categorically and totally false,” she said.


    Well, holy hell.

    See, it’s a crazy situation. Here are the possible scenarios.

    1) Will Folks is telling the 100% truth and Nikki Haley is a liar.
    2) Nikki Haley is telling the 100% truth and Will Folks is a liar.

    While the first scenario would be pretty tawdry, it would also be pretty standard. Politicians lie, they screw around on their spouses, and they get caught. The second scenario, however, would be just downright filthy.

    Under Scenario #2, Folks would be working on behalf of another campaign to stick a dagger in Haley’s chest just weeks before the election that would more than likely decide who will head our state for the next four years.

    Welcome to South Carolina folks. Come for the boiled peanuts, stay for the show. Tomorrow we’re going to slaughter a pig and drink its blood.

    Brad Willis

    Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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    16 Responses

    1. CJ says:

      I don’t know much of anything in SC anymore. Is there any reason to doubt Nikki Haley? Did Folks present any proof? Would these “problems” you mention about Folks suggest he has a credibility problem?

      Of course, I would imagine that any liberal worth their salt is salivating over this because she’s been pictured with Sarah Palin!

    2. otis says:

      CJ–Folks’ problems are largely in his past. He’s become a “love him or hate him” figure in SC. It’s one of those situations in which I think you could probably flip a coin and have just as likely a chance of picking out who is telling the truth. I know Will. I don’t know Haley. I still have no way of knowing what’s real.

    3. StB says:

      Great job deducing the possible scenarios.

    4. otis says:

      Hey, thanks, StB. I’ve worked a long time at being able to figure out either/or propositions. It’s harder to assert that pointing out the either/or proposition actually makes a point in itself.

    5. John B says:

      Something to think about. In the days before blogging, would this be a story? Seriously, if Random Joe has walked off the street into WYFF studios and told you “hey, I knocked boots with one of the gubernatorial candidates” what would/could you do. I think it is interesting because most of the headlines call Will a “blogger.” It almost gives it some kind of instant credit.

      Also, I wonder how this story is affected by the post-Sandford fallout?

    6. otis says:

      John–Really good point. Problem is that we’re in post-blogging days in which, like it or not, Will has an audience. Haley responding in the way she did makes it a headline. Although I almost wonder if “blogger” isn’t used pejoratively in a lot of circles.

      And your point on Sanford is well-taken. That Haley’s best supporter in SC is the jilted wife of South Carolina’s disgraced Governor is going to give this story more legs than it might have normally.

    7. Nathan Earle says:

      Where’s the proof–especially considering the source? Weak on facts, heavy on innuendo, just two weeks out from an election, this kind of smear is just disgusting. Jail time should be in order for this kind of vicious libel.

    8. Hemmingplay says:

      It’s not libel if it’s true, but if untrue, is the worst kind of political hatchet job. The only legal way to deal with libel is in court, and we all know how long that’ll take.

      I’m an outsider, so pardon the SC-naive question, but did Haley have to respond? Was there a buzz going on about this in relevant circles that forced her hand, or did she just make a really dumb newbie move, like Rand Paul’s recent public suicide?

    9. otis says:

      Hemmingplay–I sort of asked the same thing. Insiders had apparently been pushing the rumor for a while and not picked up any serious traction. From the persepctive of a guy who has lived here for a while, I think her best bet would’ve been a non-denial denial. Scorched earth being what is is, however, I don’t know that there was any real appropriate response on her part.

    10. CJ says:

      Let’s not forget… who benefits from this story? The most obvious answer: Folks.

      I’m sure his website is getting some massive traffic thanks to this controversy and those of us in the web biz know that traffic equals money. Certainly gives Folks a massive financial incentive to invent this story. There’s not really a downside for him because the assertion can never be “un-proven.”

    11. Hemmingplay says:

      CJ- That thought crossed my mind, especially in the descriptions that he’s operating in “Love Him or Hate Him” mode, which is tailor-made for being as outrageous as possible.

      But it’s possible he’s carrying water for someone else in the race, isn’t it? Maybe he’d like a regular paycheck again, with benefits, and is doing someone a favor.

      Which goes to motive, I suppose, and doesn’t disprove or prove the allegation that started all of this.

      Just wonderin…

    12. CJ says:

      Hemmingplay: Yeah, Otis alluded to that… that perhaps he’s a wolf in sheeps clothing as a Haley “supporter.” Certainly a possibility. Absent any concrete evidence, I wonder why this is getting the play it is.

    13. Mrs. Otis says:

      Two words: Sarah Palin.

    14. Random101 says:

      I am a citizen of South Carolina. If South Carolina is doomed to have gubernatorial sex scandals, then I prefer an attractive female governor. I admit I was a Sandford support prior to his insanity.

    15. Bruce says:

      That hottie had an affair with that guy? He wishes.

    1. May 26, 2010

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