Nikki Haley speaks at a debate on May 24, 2010.
Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Republican Gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley challenged her fellow candidates to denounce political smear tactics, just hours after blogger Will Folks claimed he'd had an inappropriate physical relationship with her.
Haley spoke at a Greenville Chamber of Commerce candidate forum Monday night.
"This is not true," Haley said of the claims against her. "These are distractions, that's what they are."
"You either win on policies or you don't," she went on to say. "But the smear tactics are not what we're going to do to the people of South Carolina."
State Attorney General Henry McMaster responded by saying his campaign would have no part in personal attacks. U.S. Representative Gresham Barrett said he'd been the victim of smear tactics, and took Haley's suggestion to denounce them.
The event came after Folks, the founding editor of the South Carolina political blog FITSNews.com, claimed he had had an "inappropriate physical relationship" with the Lexington State Representative. Related link: Folks Makes Claim
Earlier in the day, Haley also spoke on The Afternoon Drive with Kevin Cohen on 560 WVOC Radio for almost 10 minutes. (Listen to the Full Interview) Original Story: Haley Denies Claims of Affair
"This is everything I am fighting against in South Carolina politics," she said as she denounced the claims. "This lets me know that we can't have this kind of sleaze in South Carolina anymore."
Folks did not say when this relationship took place, only that it happened before his marriage.
Haley has been married since 1996.
"Michael [her husband] and I have been committed to each other and faithful to each other for 13 years," Haley said. "This will not distract me or derail me in the least."
She blamed the claim on political opponents in the state. Earlier in the month, she received the endorsement and support of Former South Carolina First Lady Jenny Sanford and Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Previous: Sarah Palin Comes to South Carolina A Rasmussen Reports poll released last Thursday showed her with the lead among the other candidates in the GOP field. Previous: Haley Leads in Rasmussen Poll
Haley said she would not get into speculation about who put the claims out there, but said that political consultants may be behind the allegation.
"The timing of this is ridiculously obvious," she said. She said that consultants pay to put information out on Folks's site. Haley said after the poll came out, she expected to get attacks.
"I thought, 'Let me get my helmet and shoulder pads on, because this is probably going to hurt,'" she said.
"They don't realize they just unleashed a tiger, because I'm probably more motivated and fired up then I've ever been," she told Cohen.
As for her supporters, she says Palin called her to offer support. Palin also issued a statement on Facebook denouncing the claims. STORY: Palin Bashes Claims Haley Jenny Sanford called her and was "very supportive and strong."
"The people are done with this," Haley said. "They're absolutely done with this style of politics."
Reaction is also coming in from people on the streets; most people who care less about the affair and more about how this makes our state look.
"I really don't care; I think people need to stop making rumors about people that are in the public eye; it's really starting to make our state look really bad," Pamela Meilar said.
"What does it matter if they had an affair or not; it has nothing to do with what she's gonna do for this state. Nobody really cares as long as she does what she's suppose to do for our state," Deandra Hall added.