Gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley on Friday stuck by her denial of an affair between her and blogger Will Folks, and she continued to emphasize the political nature of his claim.
In her first public appearance in the Lowcountry since Folks' statement Monday that they had an "inappropriate physical relationship," Haley said once polls showed her leading the four-way GOP gubernatorial race, she expected her opponents to react.
"The unfortunate part was I wish they had just focused on policy, but I think they thought there was no way of stopping the train, so they decided to do this," she said on the WTMA-AM radio show "The Morning Buzz."
When host Richard Todd asked her who she meant by "they," Haley replied: "I think it will come out in due time as to who 'they' are. What I can tell you is I'm not going to focus my energy on 'they.' I'm going to focus my energy on me."
Haley skirted a question about whether she plans to sue Folks, saying, "I am very focused on this election. I'm not going to be distracted. Michael and I have both talked about this," she said of herself and her husband.
"Right now our goal is to get through this election, and we will deal with this afterwards in a way that's appropriate."
After the radio interview, Haley declined to be specific about whether she would release any legislative or campaign correspondence that would shed light on her dealings with Folks, who served as a consultant for one of her earlier campaigns.
The Post and Courier has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the e-mails, though the law exempts lawmaker correspondence.
Asked if she plans to turn over records about her dealings with Folks, Haley replied, "I've made a decision early on and will continue to make the decision that I will not be distracted. I am not wasting one ounce of energy on anything that has no proof whatsoever."
Folks' blog contained no new allegations Friday. It did highlight the time -- and length -- of dozens of late night phone calls between him and Haley.
Asked about those calls, Haley noted that Folks once worked for her, and she expects her staff to work hard around the clock.
University of South Carolina political science professor Mark Tompkins said the length and timing of those calls raise questions Haley hasn't directly answered, and he wondered what Folks will come up with next.
"You keep thinking, How many more water balloons does he have? How many more ways does he have to get into the headlines for another day?" Tompkins said. "Goodness gracious, this keeps going."
Haley said her supporters don't seem to be affected by the week's events. Her office hasn't gotten a negative call and has run out of yard signs, bumper stickers and T-shirts, she said.
"The contributions are flowing in 24 hours a day, seven days a week like they never have."
She also said she would never call herself a victim, and she feels the media "has been doing its job. ... I'm not going to complain."
Most callers into the WTMA program were supportive. "I just want to encourage Nikki Haley to hang in there," one said. "She's a breath of fresh air and a shining star."
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771 or at email@example.com.
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