Sanford wasn't on the Appalachian Trail, he was in Argentina

The governor's staff swore he was hiking, but that turns out not to be true

By Alex Koppelman

Published June 24, 2009 1:45PM (EDT)

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford's staff has been swearing up and down, ever since Monday night, that their boss' disappearance was no big deal, that he was just off hiking the Appalachian Trail. Their assurances always lacked credibility, though, considering the wildly conflicting stories about why the governor had been missing since last Thursday that have been flying around ever since the news of it first broke.

And, it turns out, there was good reason to doubt Sanford's staff. The governor was, he told a local newspaper upon his return to Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, actually in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Sanford at first told a reporter for the State who met him at the airport that he didn't know why his staff had said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, and then revised that, saying he had told them he might do that.

"But I said 'no' I wanted to do something exotic," Sanford said. "... It's a great city."

The mere fact that Sanford -- a sitting governor -- had disappeared, leaving no clue as to his whereabouts and no way of reaching him, was bad enough. But the fact that his staff has now repeatedly been shown to have spread falsehoods about his whereabouts and who knew of them makes the story odder, and will almost certainly have a seriously negative effect on his political career, including what many have assumed to be a desire to run for president in 2012.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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