Sanford's Unorthodox Apology for Affair 'Will Sink Him'

Bucking the trend of brief apologies, Mark Sanford gave details of his affair.

ByABC News via GMA logo
June 24, 2009, 9:17 PM

June 25, 2009 — -- South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford's elaborate admission about his extramarital affair before reporters at a news conference was the latest incarnation of what is becoming routine: the philandering politician's public apology.

But while some of those elected leaders emerged from the initial scandal relatively unscathed, ABC News contributors Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts told "Good Morning America" today that they are betting Sanford won't be so lucky.

While the admission of an extramarital fling was damaging in itself, the teary, drawn out and detailed way in which Sanford announced his affair with a mystery Argentine woman known only as Maria was the real killer, both Roberts and Donaldson said.

"It will sink him," Roberts predicted.

"Mark Sanford's press conference was bizarre to say the least," Roberts said, adding that the subsequently released e-mails between the lovers "were just laughable."

The emails provided intimate details of their passion in which Sanford confessed to feeling like a teenager and rhapsodized over details like Maria's tan lines.

Donaldson was put off by the fact that Sanford took questions about the romantic getaway and gave out details.

"He's a cooked goose," Donaldson said, adding that he prefers the method of admission favored earlier this month by Sen. John Engisn, R-Nev. , which included a brief statement and a quick exit.

"You admit you're the scum of the earth, you apologize to everyone," Donaldson said.

Roberts praised the behavior of one member of the Sanford family, the governor's wife Jenny Sanford.

"At least we did not have the sight of Mrs. Sanford standing behind him," Roberts said. "That always kills me."

One thing the sex scandals have in common is how they have a way of resurrecting past apologies.

"In 2006, two years ago, I made a very serious mistake, a mistake that I am responsible for and no one else."

His confession came after months of public denial, although he had already confessed to his wife. That confession prompted his wife, who is battling cancer, to urge Edwards to drop out of the presidential race, a tactic that Edwards rejected.

Edwards was eventually defeated in the primaries, and any political future for him appears to be a long shot.

Remember how then New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who cracked down on prostitution, revealed he had $2,000 romps with a high priced call girl..

Spitzer is trying to rebuild his reputation, writing a column for Slate, doing interviews and some television commentary.

Then there's former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, who said he was sorry for pleading guilty to soliciting sex in a men's bathroom at the Minneapolis airport.

"I did nothing wrong at the Minneapolis airport. I did nothing wrong and regret the cloud the plea has brought on my wife, friends and Idahoans and I apologize for that," Craig told reporters.

Craig decided not to run for reelection in 2008.

When Rudy Giuliani was caught with a girlfriend while mayor of New York City, he didn't apologize. Instead he held a news conference to say he was getting a divorce from his wife. It was news to his then-wife Donna Hanover. Giuliani has since run for the Republican presidential nomination, but was one of the first to drop out because of weak backing.

Former New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey stunned voters by announcing he was resigning because he had an affair with a man and was a "gay American." His wife dazed looking wife Dina Matos was at his side.

McGreevey never apologized to his wife at the news conference, although he asked for the "forgiveness and the grace of my wife." She has since sued McGreevey for fraud for not telling her he was gay before getting married.

Former House leader Newt Gingrich went public with his affair and subsequent divorce on the air by confiding in right wing Christian leader James Dobson during an interview. Gingrich also didn't bother with apologies. Instead, he noted that while his affair was going on while Republicans were impeaching Clinton, Gingrich pointed out that Clinton was impeached for lying under oath about the affair.

While Sanford, who as a congressman voted to impeachment President Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky scandal, took seven days to apologize, it took Clinton seven months before he 'fessed up.

After initially claiming he "did not have sexual relations with that woman," Clinton famously declared, before later admitting, "I did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong. I misled people, including my wife. I deeply regret that."

It was Clinton's denial under oath, however, that brought the shame of impeachment on the president.

Despite the accusations of infidelity and lying, Clinton's popularity soared during his last years in office, and while he remains a polarizing figure, he is also immensely popular among Democrats. He has parlayed his prominence into a role as an international social activist.