Jenny Sanford Exclusive: Husband's Actions Don't Reflect Poorly on Me

Jenny Sanford broke the mold in the face of every political spouse's nightmare.

ByABC News
December 7, 2009, 10:20 AM

Dec. 8, 2009— -- Jenny Sanford, wife of embattled South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, told Barbara Walters in her first television interview about her husband's affair that she wouldn't have stood by his side when he publicly admitted the affair even if he had asked her to.

Sanford, who has moved out of the South Carolina governor's mansion with the couple's four children, openly discussed the heartbreak behind the headlines of their breakup.

"It's been a crazy year. ... Certainly his actions hurt me, and they caused consequences for me, but they don't in any way take away my own self-esteem. They reflect poorly on him," she said, in an exclusive interview with Barbara Walters to air on "The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2009."

Sanford was thrust into the national spotlight when her husband admitted in June that he had been secretly visiting his longtime lover in Argentina instead of hiking the Appalachian Trail, as he told his staff.

Sanford said she found out in January 2009 that her husband had been unfaithful, and she moved out of their house a few weeks before the scandal broke.

"I knew he had been having an affair. I didn't know he was in Argentina," she said.

After discovering his infidelity, Sanford said she told her husband not to visit his mistress and instead consider the consequences for his family.

Watch Barbara Walters' "The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2009" Wednesday, Dec. 9 at 10 p.m. ET

"What people didn't know was that I had asked Mark to leave. … Without permission to see his woman in Argentina or to see her anywhere, and he was to have no contact with the boys or myself for 30 days. And my hope was that he would wake up from whatever he was in the throes of and maybe see what he might lose."

But he did not wake up. And in the face of every political spouse's nightmare, Sanford broke the mold. She did not stand by her husband's side during his June press conference when he confessed to cheating. Sanford told Walters that the governor didn't ask her to.

"I wouldn't have. If he had asked me, I would have said no," she said.

Click here to see photos of this year's Most Fascinating!