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First lady seeks divorce, cites adultery

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COLUMBIA -- South Carolina's first lady, a former Wall Street vice president who helped launch her husband's political career, filed for divorce Friday more than five months after his tearful public confession of an affair with an Argentine woman.

"This came after many unsuccessful efforts at reconciliation, yet I am still dedicated to keeping the process that lies ahead peaceful for our family," Jenny Sanford said in a statement. The divorce complaint was filed in Charleston County Family Court.

In a statement, the governor blamed himself and said he and Jenny will "work earnestly to be the best mom and dad we can be to four of the finest boys on earth."

"While it is not the course I would have hoped for, or would choose, I want to take full responsibility for the moral failure that led us to this tragic point," he said. "Jenny is a great person, and has been a remarkable wife, mother and first lady. She has been more than gracious these last six months and gone above and beyond in her patience and commitment to put the needs of others in front of her own."

Jenny Sanford's announcement came after a week of wrenching twists, including a decision by a legislative panel Wednesday to turn aside an impeachment push in favor of a formal rebuke for the governor's conduct. He told reporters he still wanted to reconcile with his wife, while she said in a television interview that it was a simple decision to not stand with him as he publicly confessed the affair.

"Certainly his actions hurt me, and they caused consequences for me, but they don't in any way take away my own self-esteem," she told ABC's Barbara Walters. "They reflect poorly on him."

Her divorce complaint did not mention money, property or custody arrangements for the couple's sons.

"The defendant has engaged in a sexual relationship with a woman other than plaintiff," the complaint reads. "Plaintiff has not condoned that relationship and is informed and believes that she is entitled to a divorce ... from the defendant on the grounds of adultery."

As first lady, Jenny Sanford has little official role in state government, but she has been a quiet presence since her husband took office in 2003, often attending morning meetings with his top staff and working on a public health campaign.

Just last week, she welcomed visitors to a holiday open house at the governor's mansion. Mark Sanford arrived about two hours after the event began and gave his wife a quick kiss, but they spent much of the night 10 feet apart, entertaining separate groups.

Jenny Sanford had said after news of the scandal broke in June that she was willing to reconcile with the two-term Republican governor. She weathered the publication of e-mail exchanges between her husband and his lover, Maria Belen Chapur, and an Associated Press interview in which Sanford called Chapur his "soul mate" and admitted "crossing the line" with other women while he was married.

Mark Sanford, 49, disappeared for almost a week in late June to see Chapur leaving his staff, his wife and the rest of the state in the dark about his whereabouts. Initially, his staff told reporters he was hiking on the Appalachian Trail.

Jenny Sanford said she learned about the affair in January when she came across a copy of a letter her husband wrote to Chapur. In the months following, he asked several times to visit the other woman, she said.

"It's one thing to forgive adultery; it's another thing to condone it," she told the AP two days after her husband revealed the affair at a news conference.

"He was told in no uncertain terms not to see her," she said. "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."

Days later, after the governor told AP he was relying on religious faith to help salvage his marriage even though the love of his life was in Argentina, Jenny Sanford said it was up to the people of South Carolina whether they wanted to give their governor a second chance.

"His far more egregious offenses were committed against God, the institutions of marriage and family, our boys and me," she said.

In May, the governor seemed uncertain of what road to take. As the couple was in the midst of a series of religious counseling sessions, he wrote a letter to his spiritual adviser describing himself as emotionally torn.

"The one part where my heart at this point is not where I wish it was is with Jenny," Sanford wrote. She "is a great girl, great mom, great wife and best friend and I am committed to her in a commitment sense, but my heart is just not alive here as it ought to be."

No South Carolina governor has gone through a divorce while in office. The state in 1949 became the last in the nation to allow divorce, said Walter Edgar, a historian at the University of South Carolina.

Born Jennifer Sullivan, the first lady grew up near Chicago. Her grandfather founded the Skil Corp., a power tool manufacturer. She graduated from Georgetown University in 1984 with a degree in finance, then worked for the Wall Street investment banking firm Lazard Freres & Co., where she was a vice president in mergers and acquisitions.

The Sanfords met in New York in the 1980s when Mark Sanford also was working in finance, at Goldman Sachs.

The couple married in 1989 and relocated to South Carolina, where Sanford worked in real estate before serving three terms in Congress. Jenny Sanford managed several of her husband's campaigns. Until revelations of the affair, he had been considered a possible 2012 Republican presidential candidate.

The couple separated two weeks before news of the affair became public. Jenny Sanford and her sons sought refuge at the couple's beachfront home on Sullivans Island while Sanford remained in the state capital of Columbia, occasionally visiting his family.

Unlike some political wives, Jenny Sanford did not stand next to her husband when he revealed the affair with Chapur, whom he met on a trip to Uruguay in 2001.


Divorce complaint filed by first lady Jenny Sanford

Divorce summons to be served to Governor Sanford

Associated Press flash timeline of the Governor Sanford scandal


Here is the text of a statement released Friday by South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford on filing for divorce from Gov. Mark Sanford months after he publicly confessed an affair with an Argentine woman:

"As so many of us know, the dissolution of any marriage is a sad and painful process. It is also a very personal and private one. Because Mark and I are public figures, we have naturally had less privacy with which to deal with our difficulties than do other couples. Indeed, I know it will soon become known so I choose to release this brief notice that I am now filing for divorce. This came after many unsuccessful efforts at reconciliation, yet I am still dedicated to keeping the process that lies ahead peaceful for our family."

"I remain thankful to so many across this state and nation for their words of encouragement and prayers during this difficult time. Please know the boys and I are doing well and are blessed with the incredible support of friends and family and bolstered by our faith and the unfailing love of our God above."


June 25 - Wandering SC governor admits straying in Argentina

June 25 - South Carolina reacts to news of affair

June 25 - Jenny Sanford issues statement

June 26 - Sanford's little lie masks a much bigger one

June 27 - Alleged video of Sanford mistress surfaces

June 27 - Wife told Sanford to stop affair

June 30 - Couple went to Bible 'boot camp'

June 30 - Sanford says mistress is soul mate

August 27 - Editorial: Sanford should resign

August 27 - Sanford says he won't quit

October 2 - Sanford lauds Aiken Tech in career center visit

November 24 - Sanford faces 37 charges he broke state ethics laws

December 4 - South Carolina first family faces subdued yule

December 9 - S.C. panel nixes Sanford impeachment, recommend rebuke

December 10 - SC Gov. Sanford wants to reconcile with first lady

Comments (7) Add comment
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johnston.cliff 12/12/09 - 06:55 am
This divorce filing will

This divorce filing will allow the AP to get another 10 or 15 stories on Sanford. What a busy "news" agency.

pizzato 12/12/09 - 07:56 am
She's still a skank.

She's still a skank.

justus4 12/12/09 - 09:27 am
A governor that violated his

A governor that violated his marriage vows, but not being impeached from office. What logic is being used to determine the damage of his actions? Imagine a African-American male elected official acting as ol' Sanford did, would there be any question that he MUST leave office. Why not this case? Well, the answer is simple and based on U knw what.

JacquesUlar 12/12/09 - 09:33 am
Imagine a liberal US

Imagine a liberal US president violating his marriage vows in the oval office and staying in office.....remember "The first black President"? You crack me up, fool.

Son of God
Son of God 12/12/09 - 10:35 am
May God bless the Sanford

May God bless the Sanford family. They still have life and Mr. Sanford has time to repent to God for his mistakes. The word of God says, "Though a righteous man fall seven times, he will not be utterly cast down. God can restore. I thank God that man does not have the final decision on anything or both the Sanfords and their children would probably be stoned to death by now. Man is a unsafe example, so follow Jesus. I admire the courage to proceed and the integrity that Mrs. Sanford has. She has never been in public outrageously speaking bad about her husband. Mr. Sanford spoke of the other woman as his soul mate. Honesty is the best policy. There is a way that seemeth right unto a man but the ends thereof are the ways of death(divorce) and destruction(adultery). How many of us have made the same or worse mistakes but God covered us with his GRACE AND MERCY? May God continue to uplift the Sanford and the Woods families as they recover. Plkease cover both families (in prayer and not in bad deeds) as they recover. Let's help restore our brothers with a spirit of forgiveness, meekness, and humbleness. I am on my way to a funeral today of a young person. His life is FINISHED on earth

dani 12/12/09 - 11:20 am
It is good to see that Jenny

It is good to see that Jenny Sanford has principles and is not a "stand by your man" Hillary.

mable8 12/12/09 - 12:29 pm
J4:: Since when is this news

J4:: Since when is this news "racist?" Your hatred is so obvious, one would think you were not a human being, but a rusting robot. Affairs are the property of the ones involved, not the public; it would be nice not to see dirty laundry aired everywhere.

helpicantfindthespacebar 12/13/09 - 02:35 am
justus is an idiot, and

justus is an idiot, and refuses to heed the call of the village that wants him back. I would like to know where in the oath of office it says that being true to his marriage vows is a condition of remaining governor? I'm not condoning his actions, and can't blame her for leaving after he called the other woman his 'soul mate'. Who the heck would stay with him after that? Mrs. Sanford has conducted herself with a tremendous amount of dignity during the entire ordeal, and deserves to be left the hell alone by the media.

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