Saturday, August 3, 2013

Lindsey Graham challenger Nancy Mace's biggest obstacle: Her association with FITSNews

Mace was at the helm of political gossip site during Nikki Haley allegations

Posted by Chris Haire on Sat, Aug 3, 2013 at 12:54 PM

Goose Creek resident Nancy Mace officially announced her campaign to defeat U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham in the 2014 Republican Party primary. The first woman to graduate from the Citadel, Mace is a well-regarded up-and-comer in Palmetto State politics, counting at least one notable South Carolina Tea Party fave as an ally, state Sen. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort). However, if Mace truly hopes to secure the SCGOP nomination, she will need to answer questions about another comrade, Will Folks of FITSNews. 

As the former co-owner of FITSNews, Mace presided over the South Carolina political gossip site during its most infamous days; many have speculated that the site at times operated as the propaganda arm of her consulting biz. In 2010, Folks announced on FITSNews that he had an "inappropriate physical relationship" with then gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley.

A one-time spokesman for former Gov. Mark Sanford, Folks claimed that in 2007 he made out with Haley in her SUV after a drinking session. He also claimed that their "physical relationship" continued throughout the spring of that year. Haley denied the allegations, although her campaign chief Tom Pearson indicated in exchanges with Folks and others that the allegations, at least in some form, were possibly true. 

Over the course of the weeks that followed Folks' 2010 confession — a move that was prompted in part by a forthcoming story from then Free Times reporter Corey Hutchins — Haley vaulted from the back of the pack to the front, prompting speculation that the entire episode had been orchestrated to give the little known Bamberg, S.C., state representative a bump.

At the same time, Folks milked the new-found national notoriety for all that it was worth, releasing text messages related to the alleged physical relationship, numerous web posts hinting at more salacious details, various and sundry fits of locker room innuendo, ranging from the mild to the grotesque, and one excerpt from an as-yet-to-be-published tell-all. 

While Folks has long maintained that Mace had no influence over editorial matters at FITSNews, that's at least one question that the U.S. Senate candidate will have to answer, especially when it comes to the Nikki Haley allegations. Haley, like Davis, is a darling among Tea Partiers, and many of these people believe in their heart of heart that Folk's confession was a smear designed solely to ruin Haley's chances in 2010. While South Carolina Tea Partiers have little to no love for Sen. Graham — and that's being kind — one wonders how many will respond when they learn that his opponent was at the helm of a news site that "smeared" one of their own. As a woman, Mace will also have to address the fact that she was co-owner of a site that routinely referred to Gov. Nikki Haley in the most vile of sexual inappropriate ways, not to mention this uncomfortable 2009 faux interview with Nikki Haley posted by FITSNews.

At this point in the campaign, it would be wise for Mace to come clean about her involvement with FITSNews and the question of whether she actually influenced editorial content, even it is just to offer a pithy non-denial. Once she has done that, it would certainly be in her best interest to distance herself from Will Folks as much as possible or at least make sure that any outstanding checks have already been cashed. 

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