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S.C. gov. candidate Haley says affair allegation is a closed subject

Nikki Haley said she's done talking about allegations that she had an adulterous sexual relationship.

But the political blogger making the claims isn't.

Will Folks said Tuesday he was in contact with Haley's gubernatorial campaign for two weeks about how to handle any fallout over his claim that he had an "inappropriate sexual relationship" with the married mother of two.

"My advice was that she and her husband sit down on a sofa together and talk about it the way (President) Clinton did," Folks told The Post and Courier.

Haley, a state representative from Lexington leading in the GOP race, has vehemently denied Folks' allegations.

Folks has yet to provide any proof that he is telling the truth. He told The Associated Press that the relationship happened in 2007, while he was working for Haley, writing speeches and news releases. Campaign disclosure records show Haley paid Folks' company about $5,000 for consulting work in 2007 and 2008.

He wouldn't give details about the relationship, but Tuesday he characterized their interaction as "inappropriate sexual contact," and said that it happened more than once and it ended by mutual decision.

Folks told the Post and Courier of Charleston he has evidence to support his claims, including text messages, but he has not disclosed when he will provide it. He has been making the allegations on his blog, fitsnews.com.

Haley's campaign manager Tim Pearson said in an e-mail blast that Haley has addressed the allegations forthrightly. Pearson did not respond to specific questions that the newspaper asked by e-mail and in phone messages.

"For the past year now, South Carolinians have been subjected to much more frenzied media sensationalism than they ever wanted; Nikki is determined not to contribute to that," Pearson said in the e-mail.

"As she has repeatedly said, this amounts to nothing more than a distraction from the things that are most important to the people of our state. She is very thankful for the incredible support she has received this week from all across South Carolina, and will continue to keep her focus on the issues that truly matter."

On Monday, Haley launched an aggressive counterattack on Folks' claims, but by Tuesday, Haley's camp was mostly quiet. She didn't attend Tuesday's House session.

She said in a statement Monday that Folks' claim of an "inappropriate physical relationship" is "categorically and totally false" and that she has been "100 percent faithful to my husband throughout our 13 years of marriage."

Folks, meanwhile, said Haley has not demanded he remove his blog post, publish a retraction or sought a court injunction, citing that as proof he is telling the truth.

"What does that tell you? I don't know," Folks said.

Folks said state lawmakers and other sources indicate that Gresham Barrett's campaign forced FitsNews to reveal the relationship.

Luke Byars, campaign manager for Barrett for Governor, said Tuesday that Folks' claims are untrue.

"This is patently false and absolutely untrue," Byars said.

Folks said he has records to back up everything he said about consulting with the Haley campaign, including texts between himself and Pearson, one of Haley's chief campaign workers, discussing how to handle the campaign's response. Haley didn't listen to Pearson's advice, Folks said.

"I got made out to be a villain, and that's unfortunate," he said, adding he's accustomed to being a villain, but for a cause.

"Does it hurt to be called a liar? Sure. I was floored by the full-frontal attack against me," he said about Haley's reaction Monday.

He said he was not paid to publish the claims, nor does he have a financial stake in the race.

FitsNews is a controversial blog that declares itself to be "Unfair. Imbalanced." Folks' credibility has taken a hit and he fired back by saying that there has never been a successful libel suit filed against the blog.

"If anybody is going to be doing the suing, it's going to be me," Folks said.

There is a libel case pending against FitsNews in district court in Charleston, he said.

According to court documents in the civil case, Folks is one of seven defendants accused of publishing or addressing stories about allegations made during a heated 2008 state Senate campaign. A judge has suggested the widely inclusive suit, which also names a daily newspaper, be dropped.

Meanwhile, at a news conference to receive an endorsement Tuesday from six former Charleston County Republican Party chairmen, Attorney General Henry McMaster said he did not believe rumors about his fellow GOP gubernatorial candidate.

"I think it's a sorry commentary on politics in America," McMaster said.

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