It’s been about 12 hours now since those purported text messages were published by Will Folks, and so far no one who was allegedly a party to those texts has come forward to deny their authenticity. In fact, the only ones to come forward so far have confirmed their authenticity.
Wes Donehue, a GOP consultant who did work on the campaign of one of Nikki Haley’s rivals says the texts of his that were published are the real deal. Most significantly, Haley’s campaign manager says his texts are authentic, but maintains his denial that there was an affair between Folks and Haley. More on that tricky position in a moment.
Now, I never buy the argument that it’s not about the sex. It’s always about the sex. In this case, if there was an affair, and if Haley had admitted to it, I have to think that her campaign for governor, just two weeks before the GOP primary, would be sunk. This is South Carolina. The sex part matters.
But this may be one of those rare occasions where the sex, if there was any, actually ends up being less damaging than the coverup. If a candidate for governor outright lied about the affair and attacked her paramour publicly — in the same state that just endured the Mark Sanford saga — well, that’s just devastating. No way around it.
Folks is a bit of a loose cannon, a characterization he might even admit to. So most media have treated this story with caution and skepticism. But what Haley’s campaign manager, Tim Pearson, would have us believe is that he and Folks were texting about how to prevent a false story about an affair that never happened from coming out in the South Carolina media. But the texts don’t lend themselves to that interpretation.
On May 14, Pearson texts Folks, regarding an affidavit allegedly being shopped around about the affair: “Ah. My initial thought is if it aint from you or nh [Nikki Haley] then its a tough sell.”
On May 15, Pearson again texts Folks: “I think we both deny it. I think an affadavit is something we can beat down. Legally and politically.” Then a minute later, “I’m telling you man, we keep this under wraps and nh is going to win.”
A week later, on May 22, this past Saturday, Pearson again texts Folks: “Ok. Call me as soon as you can. I’m with michael and nikki so as soon as I’m back in the car I can’t talk.” Michael is Haley’s husband.
It’s not conclusive proof of an affair, but you add it all up, and we’re getting into territory where you have to suspend common sense to believe there’s not more to this than the campaign is letting on. It’s very hard to see how the campaign sticks to the blanket denial without further explanation for another two weeks. The GOP primary for governor is June 8, and Folks has given every indication there are more texts to come.
David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.