Lexington County voters who have elected state Rep. Nikki Haley three times and state lawmakers who serve with her at the State House all posed the same question Tuesday: Where's the proof?
Where is the evidence, they ask, to back up the claim by political blogger Will Folks, a former aide to Gov. Mark Sanford, that he and Haley, a front-runner in the Republican gubernatorial race, had an "inappropriate physical relationship" in 2007?
If proof doesn't surface or doesn't exist, many say Haley, surging in some polls and recently endorsed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former S.C. first lady Jenny Sanford, is in solid shape heading into the June 8 primary.
"He's (Folks) going to have to prove it. The burden is on him," said state Rep. Ralph Norman, R-York, a Haley supporter who does not believe Folks' claim. "It helps her if he can't prove it. I trust Nikki. I trust what she says."
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Haley has denied the claim, saying she has been 100 percent faithful to her husband of 13 years. She took her message to talk radio airwaves, saying the accusation has emboldened her and her husband to work even harder to win the primary. "I have not put any energy in (the Folks confession)," Haley said in Florence Tuesday. "I don't plan on putting any energy into it. A lot of what this is is last minute stuff that's meant to distract. I'm not going to get distracted."
Folks said the proof exists in e-mails and texts between him and Haley that he and his attorneys are pulling together now. "Nikki says it's categorically false. The problem with that is it's categorically true," Folks said in a phone interview Tuesday. "There will be a very aggressive effort mounted to obtain all of the data that will corroborate what I've said."
Folks, Sanford's former communications director, said he admitted to the relationship on his blog because he heard that media outlets were working on the story. He said he also thought it was likely that others had evidence of the relationship.
"I did it because my wife was about to read it in another (media) outlet," Folks said, adding he is not working for any rival campaign nor was he paid to make the admission.
"I decided I would get ahead of it and (reveal) it in a way that was respectful to Nikki."
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