SC senator waiting for call after social media spat with Gov. Haley

jself@thestate.comApril 17, 2014 

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State Sen. Katrina Shealy is waiting to see if she will get a phone call from Gov. Nikki Haley after the two longtime political allies had a public falling out on social media over state Department of Social Services director Lillian Koller.

“If they want to call me, I’ll be happy to talk to them,” Shealy said Thursday of Haley’s office. “I’m not calling because I don’t feel like it’s my place to call. I didn’t type that original post. I didn’t initiate this conversation.”

The spat began when Haley called out fellow Lexington Republican Shealy on her Facebook page Wednesday, accusing Shealy — who Haley twice supported for the Senate — of spreading a rumor about Koller’s religion beliefs.

In the Facebook post, Haley wrote she was proud of Koller for testifying Wednesday in the face of “political games” by some state senators.

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Koller, who suffered a stroke in December, testified for the first time Wednesday before a Senate panel that, for months, has been investigating allegations that Social Services repeatedly botched child-abuse cases, leading to the deaths of children.

When a comment on Haley’s Facebook post accused Koller of being an atheist, Haley fired back: “Dir. Koller is not an Atheist. I wish you and Sen. Shealy would quit spreading that lie. She is Jewish and the daughter of Holocaust survivors.”

Shealy responded on her own Facebook page.

“I am so angry!!!!!” Shealy’s response began.

Shealy, a member of the Senate panel investigating Social Services, said she asked the governor’s staff in confidence about a rumor about Koller’s religion. When she was told Koller was Jewish, Shealy wrote that she “accepted that answer” and did not talk about it except to correct others.

“Now I am being reprimanded on the Governor’s Facebook Page saying I am spreading rumors. ... Someone owes me an apology!!!”

A spokesman for Gov. Haley declined comment Thursday on the matter.

Shealy said Thursday that she was taken aback by the governor’s post, adding she wished Haley had called her directly about whether she was spreading rumors, instead of posting on Facebook.

“The governor and I have always been friends,” Shealy said. “I would like to think if, she even thought I would do that, she would pick up the phone and call me.”

The two Republicans have been political allies since Haley backed Shealy in her unsuccessful 2008 attempt to oust longtime GOP state Sen. Jake Knotts of Lexington.

Haley, the state’s first female governor, backed Shealy again in 2012, when she won a stunning victory over Knotts. Shealy had to run as a petition candidate after she and scores of other primary candidates were knocked off the primary ballot by a lawsuit filed by a Knotts campaign worker.

Today, Shealy is the only woman in the state Senate.

Even after the social media spat, Shealy said she still supports the governor.

“She’s running for re-election,” Shealy said. “If she needs me, I’m here for her.”

But the future of Social Services appears to be a dividing point for the two.

“This is not a witch hunt for Lillian Koller,” Shealy said. “This is not about any one person. It’s about making South Carolina a better place for children and families.”

Shealy called Haley’s Facebook post a distraction from the issues raised during the Social Services hearing. “It’s all about a silly Facebook post, instead of about what really happened.”

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