SULLIVANS ISLAND, S.C. – South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford sat in her oceanfront living room Friday, recalling how her husband repeatedly asked permission to visit his lover in the months after she discovered his affair.
“I said absolutely not. It’s one thing to forgive adultery; it’s another thing to condone it,” Jenny Sanford told the Associated Press during a 20-minute interview at the coastal home where she sought refuge with their four sons. They were her first extended comments on the affair.
She said that when her husband, Gov. Mark Sanford, inexplicably disappeared last week, she hoped he was hiking on the Appalachian Trail, as his staff told those who inquired about his absence. That he had dared to go to Argentina to see the other woman left her stunned.
“He was told in no uncertain terms not to see her,” she said in a strong, steady voice. “I was hoping he was on the Appalachian Trail. But I was not worried about his safety. I was hoping he was doing some real soul searching somewhere and devastated to find out it was Argentina. It’s tragic.”
The Sanfords had separated about two weeks ago. She said her husband told the family that he wanted some time away to work on writing a book and clear his head. The first lady said, “I had every hope he was not going to see her.”
Mark Sanford, who is staying at the official residence in Columbia, returned Wednesday to end days of speculation on his whereabouts, publicly confess his cheating and emotionally apologize.
Jenny Sanford, a Georgetown-educated former Wall Street vice president, did not stand next to her husband Wednesday during his pained public confession.
Sanford said she discovered her husband’s affair early this year after coming across a copy of a letter to the mistress in one of his files in the official governor’s mansion. He had asked her to find some financial information, she said, not an unusual request considering her heavy involvement in his career.
She would not comment on what was in the letter except to say “enough to figure out an affair was going on.”
She felt “shocked and obviously deeply hurt. I didn’t think he had it in him,” she said. “It’s hard to find out your husband is not who you thought he was.”
The first lady said she confronted her husband immediately, and he agreed to end the affair. She said she wasn’t sure Friday whether he had done so.
“I guess that’s what we will have to see. I believe he has,” she said. “But he was down there for five days. I saw him yesterday and he is not staying here. We’ll just see what kind of spirit of reconciliation he has himself.”