South Carolina Governor Says He's Had An Affair; Wife Told Him To Leave

South Carolina's first lady says she asked Gov. Mark Sanford to leave home and stop talking to her two weeks before he publicly admitted an affair with a woman he visited on a secret trip to Argentina.

Jenny Sanford said in a statement Wednesday that she needed a trial separation from her husband of nearly 20 years to preserve her own sense of dignity.

Mark Sanford said Wednesday he has ended the yearlong affair and his wife has known about his infidelity for five months. The governor says he is seeking his wife's forgiveness and wants to reconcile.

Jenny Sanford's statement says her husband has earned a chance to resurrect their marriage.

He returned Wednesday from a seven-day trip to Argentina. His staff said he'd been hiking the Appalachian Trail.

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford says he's been having an affair with a woman from Argentina and will resign as head of the Republican Governors' Association.

The married father of four emotionally apologized to his wife, staff and others at a news conference after returning Wednesday from a trip to Argentina that followed a dayslong absence. He staff had said the Republican was hiking on the Appalachian Trail.

Sanford says he met the woman about eight years ago and it became romantic about a year ago. He says his wife and family have known about it for the past five months.

He had been a rumored contender for the 2012 GOP ticket. He's most recently snared headlines for his unsuccessful fight to turn aside federal stimulus cash for his state's schools.

Sanford says, "I've let down a lot of people."

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

"Why all the big cover-up?"

That's what one state senator in South Carolina wants to know.

With state leaders wondering where in the world Gov. Mark Sanford was after hearing nothing from him since last Thursday, the governor's aides yesterday said he had been hiking the Appalachian trail to clear his head after a bruising legislative session.

But today, the Republican governor tells The State newspaper that he'd decided to go to Argentina instead, because he wanted to do something exotic. The paper reported that Sanford arrived in Atlanta on a flight from Buenos Aires this morning.

Sanford tells The State he was alone on the trip, but declined to give any details other than to say he drove along the coastline.

The news prompted state Sen. Jake Knotts, a fellow Republican, to complain: "Lies. Lies. Lies." He says "that's all we ever get" from the governor and his staff.

Neither the governor nor his spokesman has commented on the criticism.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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