State 125

How hiking the Appalachian Trail became code for an affair

Then-Gov. Mark Sanford explains his six-day absence and extramarital affair to the media June 24, 2009 in Columbia. Staffers said the governor was hiking the Appalachian Trail but The State newspaper found out he spent time in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Then-Gov. Mark Sanford explains his six-day absence and extramarital affair to the media June 24, 2009 in Columbia. Staffers said the governor was hiking the Appalachian Trail but The State newspaper found out he spent time in Buenos Aires, Argentina. File photo/The State

Republican Gov. Mark Sanford said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail.

But for six days in June 2009, no one – not even family and staff members – really knew where he was.

Sanford finally resurfaced on June 24. And, acting on a tip that The State newspaper had received, political reporter Gina Smith was at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport waiting for Sanford when he got off a flight from Buenos Aires.

Sanford told Smith that he had been in Argentina. And, at a televised news conference later that day, he admitted he admitted an extramarital affair.

Former Sanford staffer, Barton Swaim, says his book about the how revelations about an extramarital affair affected operations in SC Governor Mark Sanford's administration wasn't intended to be a typical political tell-all.

He had spent five days in Argentina visiting his lover, Maria Belen Chapur.

A little more than a month later, former first lady Jenny Sanford moved out of the Governor’s Mansion with their sons, and the couple’s divorce played out in the media.

There were many calls for Sanford to resign, but he didn’t. He also avoided impeachment.

Sanford dropped out of politics for a while – until 2013, when he saw a political resurrection.

Sanford successfully ran for then-U.S. Rep. Tim Scott’s Congressional seat, winning a 16-candidate GOP primary, a Republican runoff and then beating Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Bush, the sister of TV political satirist Stephen Colbert.

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