Nikki Haley, the Republican rising star in South Carolina’s gubernatorial race, had an interesting experience today with our new media reality after Will Folks, a rather infamous SC GOP consultant, alleged on his blog that he had an “inappropriate physical relationship” with Haley several years ago.
In a race to replace Gov. Mark Sanford, adultery is an even bigger deal than it normally is in politics, and the online national media jumped all over it, with Twitter buzzing away as major journalists linked Folks’ post.
With no personal knowledge of his rather vague claims, I can’t rebut them — except to point out that anyone who knows Folks or has met him (I have) knows him to be a very questionable source. That’s one reason local media, who know him well, seem more skeptical about this claim. And I don’t just mean because of the domestic violence thing, or the Corvette thing, or that the former rock bassist was fired from his job as Gov. Sanford’s press secretary after numerous negative political incidents. I mean, I’m not saying Folks is untrustworthy, but I am saying that Mark Sanford found him a bit too … odd.
Journalists covering this story may be confused by the fact Folks has publicly said nice things about Haley’s candidacy, but I’ve been told his private tone has been much different. Saying nice things about Haley was fine when she was third in the polls, but she’s in first place now, in part thanks to the backing of Sarah Palin but more importantly (for South Carolina) thanks to Jenny Sanford, who’s gotten most of the old Sanford team working for Haley.
Folks still has plenty of bad blood with the Sanfords — Jenny never liked him — and it wouldn’t surprise me if this is part of his motivation for making this claim, or if he were doing the bidding of one of Haley’s opponents. Either would make more sense.
In any case, a word to the wise: in South Carolina politics, always trust the locals first. They know who’s just blowing smoke.
Update: Columbia’s alternative paper reports that rumors originally surfaced over a year ago. That would square with what I’m told — it’d be around the time Folks got pushed off Haley’s payroll after some minor consultant work — but this is all still hearsay. Haley’s denial remains unequivocal.