Fox’s Chris Wallace presses Trump challenger on decade-old affair

September 9, 2019

Chris Wallace may not see eye-to-eye with President Donald Trump, but when it comes to the president’s latest long-shot challenger, they’re on virtually the same page.

In an interview with Mark Sanford on Fox News Sunday, Wallace pressed the Republican to explain why he’s challenging Trump despite having “no chance” of winning. Mediaite reports that Wallace candidly observed that the former South Carolina governor will have to persuade voters to look past the one thing they may remember him by: an infamous affair 10 years ago, and a sloppy attempt by his office to cover it up.

Wallace turns up the heat

Sanford became the third Republican challenger to take on President Trump this weekend, announcing his primary campaign on Fox News Sunday. But Sanford didn’t get any softballs from Wallace, who promptly pressed the Republican on the infamous affair and his virtually impossible hopes of beating Trump.

“I think it’s fair to say, sir, that you are best known around the country as the governor who disappeared for a week in 2009. Your aides said you were hiking the Appalachian Trail; in fact you were a married governor in Argentina with your then-girlfriend. Question: isn’t that going to be a deal-breaker for a lot of voters?” Wallace asked.

Wallace was referring to an incident when Sanford, then the governor of South Carolina, went missing for several days. His spokesperson said that he had gone hiking in the Appalachians, but Sanford eventually admitted that he was in Argentina with a woman with whom he was having an affair, María Belén Chapur.

The eyesore is a particular obstacle for Sanford given his line of attack on the president: the Republican Party has “lost its way” under Trump, he says, and needs new moral leadership. Why, then, should voters flock to an ex-governor who is mostly known for cheating on his wife?

Sanford said that unlike Trump, he has expressed “profound” remorse for his mistakes. “I learned a level of humility, a level of empathy that I didn’t have before, a level of judgment. It’s something of great regret, it’s something I’ve apologized extensively for,” he said.

Never-Trump nobody struggles to distinguish his candidacy

Sanford divorced his wife in 2012, and in 2014 he ended his relationship with Chapur. Despite the scandal, Sanford went on to win a special election to the House in 2013. Sanford then lost to a primary challenger in 2018 after Trump endorsed Sanford’s opponent. After his primary loss, Trump mocked Sanford and his “[flamenco] dancer” ex-girlfriend.

Noting Sanford’s “history” with Trump, Wallace asked the Republican whether his campaign sprang from “personal” motives, but Sanford insisted that he was running because of higher principles.

Sanford now joins two other Never-Trump Republicans supposedly motivated by loftier things than raw power — ex-Massachusetts governor Bill Weld, and radio host, ex-Trump supporter, and congressman Joe Walsh — in taking on the president. Going by poll numbers, none of the candidates are competitive, a reality that even Sanford acknowledged earlier this year, Fox News noted.

Wallace was no more optimistic as he pressed Sanford on his numerous obstacles to the presidency, noting that Trump enjoys 85% Republican approval and that some states are not holding GOP primaries at all, amid other challenges — to say nothing of Sanford’s big scandal. “You’ve got to know, you basically have no chance of winning the Republican nomination, so why run for president?” Wallace pressed.

In response, Sanford laid out a familiar Never-Trump line: it’s not really about him, but bringing the Republican Party back to sound principles after having been corrupted by Trump. Sanford specifically invoked Trump’s fiscal policies, but also criticized Trump’s trade policies and brash approach to politics.

“We need to have a conversation about humility,” he said. In this situation, though, the humble thing for Sanford to do would probably be to step aside.

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Matthew Boose

Matthew Boose is a staff writer for Conservative Institute. He has a Bachelor's degree from Stony Brook University and has contributed to The Daily Caller and The Stony Brook Press.