COLUMBIA --- South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford says she may be able to forgive her husband's much-publicized affair with an Argentine woman, but true reconciliation will take more time.
In a statement e-mailed to reporters Thursday, Jenny Sanford called her husband's behavior inexcusable but said she may be able to give him another chance. It was her first public remark since Gov. Mark Sanford told The Associated Press that Maria Belen Chapur is his soul mate but he is trying to fall back in love with his wife.
"Forgiveness opens the door for Mark to begin to work privately, humbly and respectfully toward reconciliation with me," she said. "However, to achieve true reconciliation will take time, involve repentance, and will not be easy."
Mark Sanford's spokesman, Joel Sawyer, said the governor will travel today to be with his family in Florida, where his in-laws live.
The embattled Republican brushed aside calls for his resignation as state law enforcement officials announced that an investigation found he had used no taxpayer money on trips to New York and Argentina where he saw Ms. Chapur.
Jenny Sanford found out about the affair in January, but it didn't become public until Mark Sanford announced it at an emotional news conference last week after a secret trip to Buenos Aires. His wife told The Associated Press that he had repeatedly asked permission to go to Argentina to visit his mistress, but she said no. He went anyway, telling his staff he was planning to hike the Appalachian Trail.
The Sanfords have been separated for several weeks. In her statement Thursday, Jenny Sanford offered no opinion on her husband's political future, saying it is up to South Carolina voters and elected officials to decide whether they can "give Mark another chance."
"Mark showed a lack of judgment in his recent actions as governor," she said. "However, his far more egregious offenses were committed against God, the institutions of marriage and family, our boys and me."
As Mr. Sanford prepared to fly along with a security detail to meet his family, he released his personal travel records to the media. He has maintained he did not use taxpayer money to finance his trysts, which the investigation backed up, said State Law Enforcement Division Chief Reggie Lloyd.
"What he did on his own private time is not illegal," Chief Lloyd said.
Ms. Chapur and Mr. Sanford met in Uruguay in 2001, and their relationship became physical during an economic development trip Mr. Sanford took to South America in June 2008. In between, the governor told AP, they exchanged e-mails but saw each other only once, a coffee date during the Republican National Convention in 2004.
Mr. Sanford has already given the state treasurer two personal checks totaling $3,300 to pay for part of the 2008 economic development trip. He saw Ms. Chapur four times after that -- the trip to Argentina, plus three visits in New York in between.
Mr. Sanford arranged one of the meetings in New York -- a November tryst in the Hamptons -- by adding a three-day stopover in New York to a flight from Ireland to South Carolina. He had been traveling abroad on behalf of the Republican Governor's Association, which he headed from that same month until last week. His records show he paid for that part of the trip with his personal credit card.
Mr. Sanford also arrived in Manhattan a day before another RGA function in September to visit Ms. Chapur; his wife flew in the following day.
The political group learned Thursday that Mr. Sanford had used its functions as an opportunity to meet his mistress, said RGA Communications Director Mike Schrimpf.
South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford issued the following statement Thursday, breaking two days of silence that followed her husband's revelations to The Associated Press about his extramarital affair:
The last week has been very painful for me, my family and for the people of South Carolina. However, throughout this terrible ordeal, the incredible outpouring of kindness, support, and prayer I've received from countless friends and folks I have never even met has been truly uplifting. I appreciate that more than I can say. Please know that my sons and I are doing fine, given the circumstances. We are surrounded by friends and family, and we will make it through this. I believe it is how we respond to the challenges we face in life, and what we learn from them, that is most telling about who we truly are.
There is no question that Mark's behavior is inexcusable. Actions have consequences and he will be dealing with those consequences for a long while. Trust has been broken and will need to be rebuilt. Mark will need to earn back that trust, first and foremost with his family, and also with the people of South Carolina.
The real issue now is one of forgiveness. I am willing to forgive Mark for his actions. We have been deeply disappointed in and even angry at Mark. The Bible says, "In your anger do not sin." (Psalm 4:4) In this situation, this speaks to the essence of forgiveness and the critical need to channel one's energy into positive steps that uphold the dignity of marriage and the family, and lead to reconciliation over time. My forgiveness is essential for us both to move on with our lives, with peace, in whatever direction that may take us.
Desmond Tutu said "forgiveness is the grace by which you enable the other person to get up, and get up with dignity, to begin anew." Forgiveness opens the door for Mark to begin to work privately, humbly and respectfully toward reconciliation with me. However, to achieve true reconciliation will take time, involve repentance, and will not be easy.
Mark showed a lack of judgment in his recent actions as governor. However, his far more egregious offenses were committed against God, the institutions of marriage and family, our boys and me. Mark has stated that his intent and determination is to save our marriage, and to make amends to the people of South Carolina. I hope he can make good on those intentions, and for the sake of our boys I leave the door open to it. In that spirit of forgiveness, it is up to the people and elected officials of South Carolina to decide whether they will give Mark another chance as well.