South Carolina Gov. Sanford's Mistress Acknowledges Affair

Argentine news organizations identify the woman with whom South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford had an affair as former television producer María Belén Chapur, shown here reporting in New York for Argentine television./ABC News
Argentine news organizations identify the woman with whom South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford had an affair as former television producer María Belén Chapur, shown here reporting in New York for Argentine television.

After a week of silence and dodging both American and Argentine media, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford's South American mistress publicly acknowledged their relationship Sunday in a statement read on Argentine TV.

Maria Belen Chapur, a former television producer, remains under the radar because of intense media scrutiny surrounding her. But in a brief statement conveyed through a television report on Buenos Aires' C5N channel, the 41-year-old said she indeed was involved with Sanford and that the published e-mail correspondence between the two was obtained from her account by a "hacker."

The former journalist did not directly acknowledge the affair or mention the embattled governor's name, saying she won't speak about her private life, which has already been made too public and painful. But her statement offered extensive details about how the "the author of this evil action" broke into her e-mail account. She denied that the hacker was a friend of hers.

Chapur's friends and colleagues told ABC News she is a sophisticated and intelligent woman, and that the relationship between the two was simply a matter of love.

Chapur is "refined and professional," said news anchor Eduardo Feinmann, to whom Chapur sent her statement. He added that he wasn't shocked when he heard about the affair, and thinks she might really be in love.

Sanford said in a tearful press conference last Wednesday that he had known the woman -- who he didn't identify by name -- for years but that the relationship only turned romantic in the last year. The governor said he met her three times over the last year.

On Monday, Sanford made his second appearance after the announcement at a state budget board meeting. He apologized again to his staff for "letting you down" and said he was sorry about the affair. But he also reaffirmed his decision to stay in office.

Sanford and Chapur's impassioned e-mails -- obtained by The State, South Carolina's largest daily newspaper -- became front-page headlines across continents.

In the e-mails, Sanford agonizes over the two's "hopelessly impossible situation of love," as Chapur wrote, "You are my love. ... Sometimes you don't choose things, they just happen. ... I can't redirect my feelings, and I am very happy with mine toward you."

Sanford's wife, Jenny, found out about the affair in January but was willing to forgive her husband of 20 years if he stopped his relationship with Chapur.

Jenny Sanford said she was devastated when she found out her husband took a secret trip a week and a half ago to visit Chapur again. The governor disappeared mysteriously without informing his friends, family, security detail and staff, whom he told about possible plans to go hiking on the Appalachian trail.

"He was told in no uncertain terms not to see her," Jenny Sanford told The Associated Press Saturday. "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."

Jenny Sanford, who has appeared remarkably poised through her husband's public embarrassment, said she believes her husband has now ended his relationship with Chapur.

The governor, who said he initially considered resigning, is now holding on to his turf, saying he will complete his remaining 18 months in office in full and work to repair both his public and private relationships.

"Given everything that has gone on, it's obviously something he considered, but he's determined to serve out his term," Joel Sawyer, Sanford's communication director told ABC News.

Calls for Investigation

Meanwhile, at least one member of Sanford's own party is calling for a criminal investigation into whether he broke the law by not informing his lieutenant governor -- who would be in charge in case of emergency -- of his departure and using state money to finance his trips to see his mistress. The governor's chief rival, Republican state Sen. Jake Knotts, told ABC News Sunday that he will pursue a criminal prosecution, even if he has to go to Washington, D.C.

Knotts last week asked South Carolina prosecutors to launch a criminal probe and said that he plans to pursue an investigation in the state legislature and the state attorney general's office. If the state authorities don't respond, Knotts said he is ready to go to the nation's capital and seek a federal probe.

"When you can't get results in your own state, there is a Justice Department in Washington," Knotts told ABC News. "I don't want to go that route. I want us to wash our own laundry and clean up our own act."

"Somebody's gonna look at this," Knotts said. "Somebody's gonna look to the bottom of it, and somebody's gonna give me some answers."

Knotts and some others accuse the governor of leaving the state to visit his companion without turning over control and charging taxpayers for an earlier stop in Argentina where he visited her. Sanford said last week he'll repay more than $8,000 for that stop, which he claimed was strictly a trade trip set up by state commerce officials.

State prosecutors say so far there's nothing to investigate.

"At this point we have not launched an investigation," Reggie Lloyd, director of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, told ABC News Sunday. "We don't anticipate it unless somebody brought us new facts."

Knotts is a longtime Sanford critic, but he insists that he is not in the running for next year's gubernatorial race, for which Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer and Attorney General Henry McMaster are seen as frontrunners.

The South Carolina legislature, which can call for an investigation, is not in session until January. It can be called into a special session, but staffers said there has so far been little talk about that. In the legislature's absence, the attorney general can call a probe, but some say that's unlikely.

Bauer told The Associated Press last week that Sanford should stay in office but admitted that he would have an advantage in the election if Sanford resigned.

"He was going to be a lame duck as it was, and now there's a possibility he could be the lamest lame duck we've ever had in South Carolina," said Warren Bolton, associate editor of The State.

Mark Sanford Holds on to His Turf

Sanford continued to insist Monday that he intends to remain in office for the remaining 18 months of his term.

Even though he initially considered resigning, Sanford told The Associated Press that he spoke with close spiritual and political associates who advised him to fight to restore the public's and his family's trust in him.

"Resigning would be the easiest thing to do," he said, but added that he won't quit and has to "go through that voyage over the next 18 months."

The governor's wife has said whether he resigns or not is up to him and she is only focused on rebuilding the family.

"That is not a concern of mine," Jenny Sanford said last week. "He's going to have to worry about that, and I'm going to worry about my family and the character of my children."