SULLIVAN'S ISLAND, S.C. — South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford gave thought to quitting, retreating from public scrutiny to rebuild his life as the scandal of his extramarital affair with an Argentinian woman came out, he said Sunday.
Close spiritual and political associates urged him to instead fight to restore his constituents' — and his family's — trust and finish out the 18 months left in his last term.
"Resigning would be the easiest thing to do," he said he thought.
The governor admitted last week to a yearlong affair with the woman from Argentina who he says he has known for about eight years. Later Sunday, 41-year-old former television reporter Maria Belen Chapur said in a statement that she had been having an affair with the governor.
Sanford is sticking it out and faces endless questions about the affair, whether he used public money to visit his lover and whether his 20-year marriage will continue. Add to it a barrage of criticism from South Carolina politicians who think the two-term Republican should step down.
"Part of walking humbly is you've got to listen to your critics out there," Sanford, 49, said.
Sanford spoke outside his family's beach house on Sullivan's Island. He, his wife, Jenny, and sons were in separate cars, headed to his family's farm — where his 83-year-old mother lives — in Beaufort, an hour south.
Sanford looked like a man of leisure in faded khaki shorts, T-shirt and bare feet. But behind the casual attire, he appeared contrite and spoke of falling from grace and rebuilding his life.
"I am sorry," he said. "I apologize for letting everyone down."
The Sanfords say they will try to reconcile.
Chapur, a divorced mother of two sons, said in a statement to news network C5n of Buenos Aires that she will not talk about her private life, which has already been the focus of intense media scrutiny.
Chapur, a graduate in political science from the Catholic University of Buenos Aires, said someone accessed her Hotmail account without permission late last year and leaked e-mail correspondence that described a relationship with Sanford to the South Carolina newspaper the State.
"I have decided to send this statement to clear up certain incorrect things that are being reported, and put an end to a matter that, as you imagine, is very painful to me, my two children, my entire family and close friends," she said in the statement addressed to anchor Eduardo Feinman, who read it on camera. Feinman was Chapur's editor when she worked briefly as a television reporter in 2001.