Embattled South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford plans to return to work Friday, despite calls for him to resign because of a sex scandal.
“After spending Thursday with his family in Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, Governor Mark Sanford has returned to Columbia and plans on holding a Cabinet meeting on Friday,” his office told CNN by e-mail Thursday, a day after he admitted having an extramarital affair with an Argentine woman. After disappearing from the public eye for nearly a week, Sanford, 49, acknowledged Wednesday that he had not hiked the Appalachian Trail — as his staff had said earlier — but had been in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Sanford said Thursday that he would reimburse South Carolina for the Argentina leg of a state-funded trade mission last year because he saw the woman he had an affair with on that trip, someone he described as “a dear, dear friend.” CNN’s sources in Buenos Aires and in South Carolina identified the woman, whose name was also widely reported in Argentine media, as Maria Belen Chapur. The governor’s disclosure prompted one newspaper in South Carolina and one of the state’s top Republicans to call for his resignation. Watch reaction to the cheating scandal » Sanford “cannot navigate a deep and painful personal crisis and lead the state through its economic crisis at the same time,” an editorial in The Spartanburg Herald-Journal said. The paper said South Carolina needed a spokesman who could talk to potential employers without having to answer questions about his personal life.
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“And the state needs a leader it can trust as it deals with the troubled economy. Sanford has destroyed that trust,” it said. A key South Carolina Republican cited Sanford’s past criticism of Bill Clinton and accused the governor of hypocrisy. “He was saying our elected leaders need to stand firm on principles and values, and one of those is strong family values,” Glenn McCall, a member of the Republican National Committee, told CNN by phone. “What he said is hypocritical if he doesn’t step down, because he was right with what he said about Clinton and others. When you are an elected leader, we hold you to higher standards.” Watch report on growing list of GOP “bad boys” » The State, the Columbia-based newspaper that acquired what it said were e-mail exchanges between Sanford and the woman, acknowledged Thursday that there would likely be people who would call for the governor’s resignation. “We are not ready to join them at this point,” the editorial said. The State said it acquired the e-mails in December. The governor’s office confirmed their authenticity Wednesday, the newspaper told CNN. When contacted by CNN, a spokesman for the governor would neither confirm nor deny the authenticity of the e-mails. The affair began in the past year and was discovered five months ago, Sanford said Wednesday without elaborating. He added that he and his wife were trying to work through it. Watch CNN.com bloggers discuss situation » He implied that he had ended the affair, saying, “And the one thing that you really find is that you absolutely want resolution. And so oddly enough, I spent the last five days of my life crying in Argentina.” Watch iReporters sound off » Thursday, the governor said he would repay South Carolina for the Argentina leg of the trade mission last year with the Department of Commerce. “While the purpose of this trip was an entirely professional and appropriate business development trip, I made a mistake while I was there in meeting with the woman who I was unfaithful to my wife with,” Sanford said. “That has raised some very legitimate concerns and questions, and as such I am going to reimburse the state for the full cost of the Argentina leg of this trip.” Watch report from CNN’s Jessica Yellin » The South American swing took Sanford and several commerce officials to Brazil and Argentina for one week, beginning on June 21, 2008. According to state expenditure reports, Sanford’s expenses for out-of-state travel with the Department of Commerce were $21,487 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2008. Governors commonly travel out-of-state or abroad to stir up investment in their home states.
It was not immediately clear how much of the expenses the Argentina part of the trip comprised. Sanford said in the news conference Wednesday that he footed the bill for his most recent trip to Buenos Aires, which occurred in the past week.