COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford said Wednesday he spent last weekend in Florida with his Argentine lover, hoping to rekindle the affair that wrecked his marriage and his political future and brought a formal rebuke from legislators for embarrassing the state.
At a news conference on an unrelated issue, Sanford did not mention Maria Belen Chapur of Argentina by name when asked about a weekend trip out of state about which his staff has refused to provide details. But the governor, now divorced, left no room for doubt.
"As a matter of record, everybody in this room knows exactly who I was with over the weekend," Sanford said. "That is no mystery to anybody given what I said last summer. And, you know, the purpose was obviously to see if something could be restarted on that front given the rather enormous geographic gulf between us. And time will tell. I don't know if it will or won't."
Questions arose after the website Gawker posted comments from tipsters who reported seeing Sanford in the Florida Keys this past weekend with a tall, attractive brunette they assumed was Chapur. Sanford said he didn't stay at the hotel mentioned in that posting or a subsequent published report.
He said Wednesday that he owed it to the public to say he was being protected by Florida law enforcement on the trip and that he was in touch with his office while away. Those became issues when he disappeared for five days last summer.
Beyond that, he said, the media should back off.
"But this obsession with one's personal life at some point has got to end," Sanford said.
Since then, Sanford has been censured by the House. Wife Jenny Sanford divorced him in March after penning a tell-all book describing their relationship. She's now dating Georgia businessman Clay Boardman. They were photographed together attending the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner May 1.
And Mark Sanford agreed to pay the largest ethics fines in state history for, among other things, his use of state planes for personal and political purposes.
Meanwhile, Jenny Sanford has been a popular talk show guest whose political capital is rising. On Thursday she'll be on "Dr. Phil" recalling the affair. Also on the pretaped show will be Cynthia Shackelford, who sued Anne Lundquist, alleged mistress of her estranged husband, North Carolina attorney Allen Shackelford. Anne Lundquist was awarded an $9 million.
Jenny Sanford tells Dr. Phil on the show that she did not know details of Mark Sanford's relationship with Chapur, according to a Politics Daily blog on Wednesday.
On Friday, Jenny Sanford will campaign for state Rep. Nikki Haley in her GOP primary bid to replace Sanford and become the state's first woman chief executive.
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