In a break-up worthy of a Hollywood political script, U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford and Argentine fiancee Maria Belen Chapur have called off their engagement, with the congressman now publicly casting much of the blame on the lingering divorce friction with his ex-wife Jenny Sanford.
"No relationship can stand forever this tension of being forced to pick between the one you love and your own son or daughter, and for this reason Belen and I have decided to call off the engagement," according to a lengthy posting on Sanford's Facebook account late Friday afternoon.
"Maybe there will be another chapter when waters calm with Jenny, but at this point the environment is not conducive to building anything given no one would want to be caught in the middle of what's now happening."
The Facebook entry came as the latest Sanford vs. Sanford legal showdown is scheduled to be in Charleston County Family Court on Monday morning.
Mark Sanford did not return a phone message. "We have no further statement at this time," his Washington, D.C., press office said in an email to The Post and Courier.
Jenny Sanford also did not respond to a request for comment. But her attorney questioned the sincerity of the posting, which came shortly after he had made his own request for a gag order to cover the case.
"Mr. Sanford's Facebook post directly contradicts his filing in court today (before he posted on Facebook) wherein he requested a gag order regarding this case for, as he stated, 'the protection of our sons,' " attorney Marie-Louise Ramsdale said.
"Apparently, he only wants a gag order after he has publicly laid out his position and disparaged my client - what he claimed she would do to him."
In his writing Friday, Sanford said he felt an obligation to report on the divorce to his constituents because the case has become so public. He accused his ex-wife of initiating a pattern of court filings "almost as clock work" meant to harass him during the past 41/2 years.
"Unfortunately there has been either the threat of lawsuit or actual lawsuit about every six months," he said.
Unlike the first go-round in their divorce case, Mark Sanford said he will have legal representation.
"I will instruct them not to fight back, to work to de-escalate and defuse and to look for measured justice and an end to controversy," he wrote.
Sanford's public airing of his divorce position continues the most spectacular of political story lines in recent state history. The broken engagement with Chapur ends the relationship he launched when he was the married governor of South Carolina. It was highlighted by the exposure of his secret flight to Argentina to meet with her in what became a euphemism for "Hiking the Appalachian Trail."
While Jenny Sanford soon divorced him, his political career survived after the affair was exposed. The new couple became engaged and he returned to politics last year as the 1st Congressional District's newly elected GOP representative.
However, the divorce case re-escalated this month after his ex-wife filed papers seeking to enact limits on Mark Sanford's access to their youngest son, saying that a "substantial change of circumstances" had developed.
Among the new conditions she wanted imposed was that their 16-year-old not be exposed to an overnight guest of the opposite sex by either adult, and that neither be allowed to take illegal or unprescribed prescription drugs or "excessive amounts of alcohol" while responsible for his care. She also requested that a guardian be appointed for the teen.
In his Facebook posting, Sanford slammed the innuendo that he had ever dabbled in illegal drugs of any kind.
"On this one, all I can ask is that you talk to anyone who has seen or known me over my entire 54 years in the Low Country," he wrote. "I have never taken any illegal drug in my life. I did not drink in high school or college and though I do drink now, my consumption is so limited that my friends give me a hard time about it. I will have but one beer or two when out at a social occasion."
He also characterized their financial split as designed to hit him deep in his family roots.
"She wanted a certain financial number that I didn't have, and so I gave her pieces of our family farm that my dad and mom assembled in the 1950s and '60s. They were obviously not 'marital assets' normally divided in a divorce, but the only way I could manage to get to her number," he said.
As far as overnight guests of the opposite sex, Sanford denied ever exposing his youngest sons to such a situation. But he accuses his ex-wife of doing so.
"Though Jenny herself has certainly not lived up to this clause it is clearly aimed at me given near everyone knows about Belen and in that regard it seems designed to create intrigue where none exists," he wrote.
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.