Nikki Haley: No, I didn't have an affair

This is almost too shady to justify posting about it, but since the accusation’s coming from the guy who claimed to have had the affair with her, I guess it barely meets the blogworthy cut-off. In a nutshell, a South Carolina blogger who used to work for Mark Sanford (and who did some consulting for Haley) claims that they had an “inappropriate physical relationship” a few years ago. (She’s been married since 1996.) Reasons to believe him: He’s been backing Haley on his blog and thus has no obvious reason to take her down. In fact, he claims he’s only doing this because information about the affair is being leaked to the media. Reasons not to believe him: He pled guilty to domestic violence five years ago (while, er, maintaining his innocence) and, as Jim Geraghty notes, is known to “shrug off” accusations that he’s paid to publish certain stories. More from the New Ledger:

With no personal knowledge of his rather vague claims, I can’t rebut them — except to point out that anyone who knows Folks or has met him (I have) knows him to be a very questionable source. That’s one reason local media, who know him well, seem more skeptical about this claim. And I don’t just mean because of the domestic violence thing, or the Corvette thing, or that the former rock bassist was fired from his job as Gov. Sanford’s press secretary after numerous negative political incidents. I mean, I’m not saying Folks is untrustworthy, but I am saying that Mark Sanford found him a bit too … odd.

Journalists covering this story may be confused by the fact Folks has publicly said nice things about Haley’s candidacy, but I’ve been told his private tone has been much different. Saying nice things about Haley was fine when she was third in the polls, but she’s in first place now, in part thanks to the backing of Sarah Palin but more importantly (for South Carolina) thanks to Jenny Sanford, who’s gotten most of the old Sanford team working for Haley.

Haley denies it unequivocally and has done a nice job today responding to the charges. Listen to this seven-minute interview to see how she’s turned it into a “me versus the machine” narrative. Palin’s rushing to her defense too with a new Facebook message:

When Nikki and I held her endorsement rally on the steps of the beautiful and historic South Carolina state house a few weeks ago, I warned her and her family that she would be targeted because she’s a threat to a corrupt political machine, and she would be put through some hell. That, unfortunately, is the nature of the beast in politics today – especially for conservative “underdog” candidates who surge in the polls and threaten to shake things up so government can be put back on the side of the people.

South Carolina: don’t let some blogger make any accusation against your Nikki if the guy doesn’t even have the guts or the integrity to speak further on such a significant claim. And don’t believe anything a liberal rag claims or suggests unless the reporter involved has the integrity and the facts to report to you so you can make up your own mind. For traditional media to rely on an accusation via some blog entry is almost laughable, but I know the seriousness of it because that’s exactly what my family and colleagues have had to put up with, every single day, for the past couple of years.

As I said to Nikki this morning, “Hang in there. I’ve been there. Any lies told about you will strengthen your resolve to clean up political and media corruption. You and your supporters will grow stronger through things like this.”

The blogger says he won’t say anything than more about it than what he wrote today, but … why say anything at all? He claims that this is causing him grief too but wanted to get in front of the story so that the media couldn’t do a slow bleed of information that would keep it alive for days or weeks. But why not wait to see if they publish anything? Maybe they’ll find that they can’t substantiate it. No need to “get ahead” of a damaging report that might be dropped before it goes to press. Like I say: Shady.

Question for South Carolinians: Will this hurt her? The worry, I guess, is that the state doesn’t want another cheating governor in office after having endured the ordeal of Love Story II, but since the evidence is thin and she’s got Palin and Jenny Sanford — the lone sympathetic character from the earlier fiasco — in her corner, what’s the damage, really? Only if it turns out that she’s lying does she have a problem, I think, but the locals will know better than me. Problem or not?