Will Folks teaches us a lesson

South Carolina Republicans should thank Will Folks.

Back in the early days of Folks’ career, he and I had our shouting matches. We had an adversarial yet friendly relationship. I was the pesky reporter. He was Mark Sanford’s staunch defender. When Folks left Sanford and I left the news business, I figured that would be the end of meaningful stories that featured the one-time punk rock bass player. Now, in the stark daylight of this sticky Nikki situation (or, Haleygate, as it is being called), I’m struck by the curious path Folks has chosen.

No matter how slimy this story is or the amount political seppuku going on all over the Palmetto State, Folks has peeled back the curtain on how politics operate here. (If you’re not caught up to the story yet, see: Nikki Haley, Will Folks: South Carolina politics as usual).

This morning, Folks released a series of text messages featuring himself, Haley’s campaign manager (Tim Pearson), one of the state’s top political reporters (Jim Davenport), and candidate Congressman Gresham Barrett’s “new media” guru (Wes Donehue). It’s a series of profane, icky, and occasionally threatening text messages that bounce back and forth in the run-up to Folks’ startling admission. The messages indicate Haley’s campaign knew about the affair allegations for a long time and had done its best to keep them out of the public eye. They further indicate Folks was doing all he could initially to keep the story from coming out.

While I won’t pretend to analyze the messages for their real meaning or even hope to understand Folks’ motivation for letting this play out so dramatically and publicly, I think there is a pretty important lesson here: most people have no idea how political campaigns work and South Carolina voters have no understanding of how their people really get elected.

Sure, it’s widely assumed that politicians are crooked, liars, and playing all kinds of crazy games behind the scenes. Even those people who get a real look under the rock after reading something like Game Change will still believe there is something noble and pure in the process. Folks, no matter whether you see him as a liar or crusader, has peeled back one more layer to show everybody the real bloodsport politics can be.

That is, if Folks is to be believed:

  • Nikki Haley is a liar
  • Her campaign worked to hide an affair and then actively lied when the affair was revealed
  • Candidate Gresham Barrett’s people had a role in shopping the story to reporters and were actively threatening people with the story
  • I’m probably not going to vote in the GOP primary, so I have no real dog in this fight. It’s political theater for me. Still, I think–love him or hate him–South Carolina Republicans owe Folks a word of thanks.

    “For what?” people will scream. “He’s destroying our Sarah Palin!”

    For what? Well, Folks hasn’t done anything particularly noble, but he he’s at least let you see what’s real. He’s let you see how Palmetto State politics operate.

    What’s fascinating–and I even had this thought myself–is the rampant accusation was that Folks might have slipped off the rocker and created a story out of whole cloth simply to drive traffic to his website. And, there are people who are genuinely angry with Folks for airing dirty laundry in such a public way. They aren’t angry about everything up to that point. They are furious that Folks is exposing what a sewer South Carolina politics can be. It’s like knowing your mother is a whore, but hating someone for bringing it up in church.

    Listen, Will Folks is no hero, and if it had been me, I would’ve kept my damned mouth shut. Still (and this is one of the strangest sentences I’ve ever typed), if Will Folks isn’t lying, he should at least be commended for telling the whole truth.

    There are a lot of arguments to be made about infidelity, hypocrisy, and how to balance to two when deciding for whom you can stomach voting. In a perfect world, an ages old affair wouldn’t mean anything to a person’s professional life. In a perfect world, campaign ops wouldn’t double as assassins. In a perfect world candidates with double-digit leads wouldn’t feel the need to lie.

    But we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in South Carolina.

    Mark Sanford, Will Folks, Nikki Haley (Photo courtesy FITSNews.com)

    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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    11 Responses

    1. CJ says:

      It’s all rather amusing to me.

      I thought a person’s sex life wasn’t supposed to matter (i.e. Clinton, etc.).

      But it’s all a mirage left for whatever hypocritical side wishes to develop their faux outrage.

    2. anonymous says:

      “…Barrett’s people had a role in shopping the story to reporters and were actively threatening people with the story.”

      NOT TRUE

      Folks is a long time Barrett hater and would love to pin the blame there. I’ve read everything on FITSNEWS and there’s nothing to support it. Will Folks has no one to blame but himself!

    3. Scuba says:

      I am prompted to write, only because I am constantly agog(yes I will use that word) at your politics. Ours seems so boring by comparison. No wonder our newspapers are quite slim and our news hours more about whats going on off our shores rather than on! We did have a family man politician found at a gay mens club last week, and whilst he resigned because he was using a tax payer funded car to get to the club, the bigger story kinda ended up turning into a story about how sleazy the media is to have followed him, rather than his behaviour! Bottom line, if your in the public eye….act like you are!

    4. Scuba says:

      ps, when I say “your politics” I mean US!!!!

    5. Scuba says:

      And when I say US, I mean United States!!!!!!!!!

    6. Hermione says:

      You’re assuming a lot here, when you set Will Folks up as some great Truth Teller. You’re assuming that he’s just like most people… just like you and me. The things I know about Will Folks (and his prior actions) make it EASY for me to understand why he would do things the way he has. Whether he’s made up this story from whole cloth, perpetuated a rumor, or merely spread the “truth” about an actual affair, the bottom line is that there must be money involved, and lots of it. Folks has been known to blackmail friends and sell out colleagues if the price is right. I don’t begin to know what actually happened between Folks and Haley, but somebody needs to follow the money trail.

    7. Tw says:

      Keep his “damned mouth shut”? Folks couldn’t drive traffic to his blog if he did. I chuckle every time I go there. The first thing you’re greeted with is a pop-up ad.

    8. Sunny says:

      The main issue here is not whether they did or did not have an affair. The main thing is, that if Will does come forward with positive proof (more positive than what has been published thus far), then Haley lied publicly by saying it never happened – and that, my friend is not a good way to begin a potential term as Governor.

    9. BadBlood says:

      Look, I’ll just say what most of us guys are thinking anyway. “I’d do her.”

    10. Special K says:

      Remember when Joe Sebok joined UB and everyone wondered why? Remember how he said that he would clean thing up and get everyone a square deal? Well, we now know why he joined; to get a TV show.

      So now Will Folks does something and many are asking why? We may never know or he may get a good state job under the next Governor. We just have to wait and see on that one.

      BTW, he didn’t tell the whole truth. He only told a small sliver of the truth if that is what it is. The whole truth would include places, time, dates and other things that could be cooborated. Until then he should be ignored.

    11. CJ says:

      Special K makes a great point.

      Otis wrote this, “if Will Folks isn’t lying, he should at least be commended for telling the whole truth.”

      That doesn’t come close to describing what Will Folks actually did.