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The evidence released so far has been either of a he-said, she-said variety or circumstantial — records of long and lengthy late-night phone calls between Haley and Folks and the text messages between Folks, Pearson, and SCGOP Marketing and Technology Director Wesley Donehue. Without a videotape, a stained dress, or in the words of Corey Hutchins, a "smoking dick," many are reluctant to believe that Haley had a relationship with Folks, even with the addition of Larry Marchant's June 2 claim that he had sex with Nikki Haley at a 2008 conference in Salt Lake City. On Oct. 15, 2010, Marchant released a signed affidavit of his own.
However, lately more and more Republicans have turned against Haley. First, influential GOP figure John Rainey asked a U.S. attorney to investigate Haley for work she had done as a consultant for Wilbur Smith Associates and for money she received as a fundraiser for the Lexington Medical Center Foundation, both jobs that took place while Haley was a sitting representative. And then former SCGOP vice chair Cyndi Mosteller wrote a fairly scathing column urging Haley to address the allegations. Following that, Mosteller formed the anti-Haley Republican group, Conservatives for Truth in Politics, with Clemson University political science professor and consultant Dave Woodard, a personal friend of Barrett and Sen. Jim DeMint. Since then Republican political consultant Jeffrey Sewell of Sewell Consultancy and the website SCHotline has turned against Haley and SCGOP head Karen Floyd. On SCHotline, two red Xs cover the faces of Haley and Floyd. When we spoke to Sewell, he said that he believes both women have lied about the affair allegations. A group called Republicans for Sheheen has formed as well, starting a Facebook page and printing bumper stickers.
Clearly, something about Haley bothers these diehard Republicans. Some might say it's the fact that Haley, a champion of transparency, didn't disclose that she was paid $42,500 to serve as a consultant for Wilbur Smith. Or that she earned $110,000 as a fundraiser for the Lexington Medical Center Foundation, a salary reportedly 63 percent higher than the top salary for those in similar positions at similar-sized firms, according to The State. Or that she had previously claimed that she amicably left Lexington Medical, when recently released e-mails suggest otherwise. Or her inability to pay her taxes on time again and again and again. Or that Haley refuses to release her legislative e-mails from the time period during which Will Folks claims their affair took place.
And once again, we're back to the affair allegation, the one issue that more than any other causes Republicans and undecided voters to question whether or not they will cast their vote for Haley in November. The Haley camp has said they will consider legal action after the election.
Will Folks has shown us his affidavit. Will Nikki show us hers?
When Will Folks announced to the world on May 24 that he allegedly had an affair with Nikki Haley, many were shocked, but perhaps none more so than Free Times reporter Corey Hutchins.
"I woke up in the morning, turned on my computer, and was looking at the news, and I saw that he had confessed to having an inappropriate physical relationship with Nikki Haley on his website," Hutchins says. "At that point, it made publishing what we already had a whole lot easier."
For approximately a year, Hutchins had been investigating rumors about an affair between Haley and Folks, and a story about the allegation was close to publication. With Folks' claim on the internet, Hutchins updated his story, and the Free Times put it online.
As Hutchins reported in the May 24 Free Times story, rumors about a sexual relationship between Haley and Folks had been circulating for several years. Other sources we spoke to acknowledged they had heard about the rumor long before Folks' allegation was posted on FITSNews.
Hutchins says, "There were people saying publicly back in 2007 or 2008 that Nikki Haley's car was parked outside of Will Folks' house. Now, those were things that I heard back then. But there are all sorts of rumors around the Statehouse all the time."
He adds, "At the time I understood that he was working for her, and that he worked out of his house and that was his office. So maybe that's why her car was there."
Indeed, Haley had hired Folks, who in addition to running FITSNews also runs the political consultant firm View Politik. Folks was hired to replace B.J. Boling, who left Haley's side to work for the John McCain campaign. By 2008, Boling was a part of the Gresham Barrett camp.
Given that Folks worked for Haley out of his home office, Hutchins dismissed the rumors. "At the time, I didn't think too much of it."
Later, a source told Hutchins that Folks had reportedly confessed to him about an alleged affair with Haley. Hutchins began to investigate in earnest. "I asked around. And the more people I spoke to about it, the more confident I became that the source was reliable," he says. "And it wasn't just one source, it was multiple sources."
Hutchins also remembered a 2008 phone conversation he had with Haley and one later with a political insider who Hutchins declines to name. During the interview for a routine profile piece on Haley, who was running for re-election in the state House of Representatives, Hutchins asked the candidate about her relationship with Folks. According to Hutchins, Haley immediately became defensive.
Many politicians use Folks' services, but they do not like to acknowledge that they do because of negative opinions about him and his website. Critics believe Folks traffics in half-truths, innuendo, and outright lies. He's also widely followed by politicos and political junkies. All of which, of course, can make him quite useful. Hutchins says that he chalked up Haley's defensive behavior to being associated with Folks professionally.
But now Hutchins sees it differently. In fact, it's the conversation that he had with a political insider immediately after his 2008 interview with Haley that stands out. In the phone call, which reportedly took place minutes after the reporter ended the call with Haley, the insider, whom Hutchins declined to name, allegedly asked the Free Times reporter what he asked Haley to get her worked up. Hutchins then ran through the list of questions he asked Haley, all policy stuff. Hutchins then says the political insider asked him if he had said anything about Folks. Hutchins said he had and then explained what he asked. The political insider reportedly sounded relieved. And Hutchins was left a little dumbfounded, wondering what he had said to put Haley apparently on the defensive.