Embattled South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford acknowledged Tuesday that he “crossed lines” during his marriage, with women in addition to the Argentine girlfriend he disclosed last week, as information surfaced that he had a romantic interlude as early as 1995 on an official congressional trip to Chile.
Mr. Sanford suggested in a statement to The Washington Times that he did not have sexual intercourse with these other women, but that he did have romantic encounters with others after his marriage in 1989 to Jenny Sullivan. Mr. Sanford served three terms in Congress from 1995 to 2001, and was elected South Carolina’s chief executive in November 2002.
“Prior to being governor, I crossed lines that a husband should not cross, but I have never crossed the ultimate line with respect to unfaithfulness, other than what I’ve already acknowledged in excruciating detail,” Mr. Sanford said in the statement to The Times.
“I’ve been as forthcoming as I can be about painful matters in my life over the course of the last week, and I’ve done so because the people of South Carolina deserve an explanation for my behavior,” he said.
The governor also signaled he intends to stay in office, rebuffing growing calls to resign.
“I’m going to continue my determined efforts to repair the damage I’ve done to my marriage and to make amends to the people of our state by continuing to focus on doing my job,” he said.
In his statement to The Times and in a separate interview with the Associated Press, Mr. Sanford was not more specific about his relationships with other women.
But people familiar with one such encounter said the governor had a brief romance with an American businesswoman in June 1995 while he was traveling in Latin America on a congressional trade mission trip.
The sources, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information, said the then-freshman congressmen met a woman during a dinner hosted by the U.S. Embassy in Santiago, Chile, and later arranged a private, romantic encounter with her while in Chile. The woman was led to believe that Mr. Sanford was unmarried, and when she found out later that he had a wife, she had no further contact with him, the sources said.
Congressional records show that as a congressman in 1995, Mr. Sanford traveled to Argentina, Brazil and Chile from May 30 to June 5 on a trade mission sponsored by the House International Relations Committee. The trip was led by then-committee chairman Rep. Jim Kolbe, Arizona Republican.
Mr. Sanford specifically was in Chile from June 3 to 5, according to House records, when Mr. Kolbe announced the status of Chile joining the North American Free Trade Agreement fast track at a news conference in Santiago.
Mr. Kolbe confirmed that the trade mission attended a party at the U.S. Embassy when it was in Santiago, but did not recall whether Mr. Sanford had gone on the trip.
Other members who went on the trade mission included lawmakers Thomas Cass Ballenger, Henry Bonilla, Michael N. Castle, Jennifer Dunn, James Greenwood, Matt Salmon, Eliot L. Engel, John Tanner, Michael Boyd, Martha Morrison, Meredith Broadbent and Roger Noriega, the records show.
Records show that Mr. Sanford did not take his wife on the trade mission, although other members of the committee did - each paying separately for their expenses.
During the 1994 campaign, when he was first elected to Congress, Mr. Sanford had promised to eliminate perks such as overseas “fact-finding missions.” But the freshman congressman said he had to go on this particular trip because he was a member of the committee, although he “knew it’s not the right thing ever to go on any trip.”
Jerry Seper is the investigative editor for The Washington Times.
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