COLUMBIA, S.C. — The campaign manager of 2016 GOP presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) once pushed out the story that South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley had an affair with her former staffer, who’s now one of the highest profile bloggers in the Palmetto State, the blogger tells Breitbart News in an exclusive interview.
It’s the first time ever that the blogger, FITSNews’ Will Folks, has made this connection to the now-Rubio staffers in an on the record interview. Haley has denied the allegations of an affair.
This revelation comes on the heels of Haley’s endorsement of Rubio, who is battling to shore up establishment support in his bid to defeat Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in Saturday’s South Carolina primary.
Folks, the blogger behind the highly successful South Carolina news site FITSNews, previously alleged that he had the affair with Haley. He tells Breitbart News in a deeply revealing interview that both Terry Sullivan—Rubio’s campaign manager—and Wesley Donehue—Rubio’s chief digital strategist—were intimately involved in making sure the story of the alleged affair got out to the public. Again, Haley denied the alleged affair.
“It started right over there,” Folks told Breitbart News of the alleged affair, pointing to the State Capitol a block away from the downtown restaurant where we met for the interview.
Folks first publicly admitted to the alleged affair in 2010 during the South Carolina gubernatorial race, when he was supporting Haley. Folks said that Sullivan, who was then consulting for Haley’s primary opponent Gresham Barrett, was one of the people most actively engaged in publicizing the alleged affair. Donehue, a private consultant at the time, was also said to be involved.
“Sullivan and Wesley Donehue. Their involvement in all of it was well-documented in emails and texts that I published in the aftermath,” Folks said. “Sullivan and those guys were very liberally involved in spreading it.”
“I didn’t start this. I just told too many people that it was happening,” Donehue wrote to Folks in a text message that Folks published on the blog.
“Now, I don’t give a fuck [if] you believe me or not. You[‘re] the one who screwed her. You’re the one who bragged about it. She’s the one who told BJ [Boling]. Y’all point fingers at your own damn selves and leave me the fuck out of it,” Donehue wrote to Folks in another text message.
These days, Folks—the man who made the allegations of an affair with Haley—is married with five children and runs one of the state’s go-to political websites on the Right. He says he is not bitter at Haley for any personal reasons, but is disappointed in her for her political 180-degree turn.
“She said she barely knew me. I was on her payroll for a year! I got her on the statewide stage,” Folks said of Haley’s denial of the affair. Folks said that he made an affidavit under oath confirming the affair, and that he stands by it.
“I did care for her but by the time it ended I had moved on and gotten very serious with the woman who is now my wife,” Folks said. “The governor is a stage 5 clinger to be honest. There were a few Wedding Crashers-type moments there.”
“I was taking a shower in mid-2009 and [my now-wife] came in with my cell phone and said, ‘You just got a message from Nikki Haley that was inappropriate. I deleted it and responded on your behalf.’ She shut that down pretty fast,” Folks said. Haley was a state legislator when Folks said the alleged affair began.
“It was the worst kept secret in that [Capitol] building,” he said. “Nikki would park her car at all hours of the night outside my townhouse,” visible to state senators driving past on their way to their hotel. “It was not long before people caught on.”
“The Rubio guys knew all about it,” Folks added. “The Henry McMaster guys. They were spreading it. They were all talking about it.”
Folks also explained how it became public.
“For whatever reason it went the way it went and I was the villain, which is fine,” Folks said. “At the time, I was aggressively promoting her candidacy. I was under the assumption that she was what she said she was.”
Folks said Haley remained happily married during their alleged affair.
“I only met the husband once or twice,” Folks said. “Any time I asked about him, she said their relationship was perfect and they had a wonderful marriage and were very attracted to each other. I said, ‘Then what the Hell are you doing here?’ She never had an answer for that.”
One time, Folks said, Haley took him out to lunch with her children.
“She took me to lunch once with her kids at the Mellow Mushroom. I don’t know what she was thinking there. Maybe she was auditioning me,” Folks said.
When Folks came forward and admitted to the alleged affair, he said he coordinated with Haley on phrasing things in a way that would not doom her political career—and that would allow her to deny it.
“We agreed that I was going to publish something that would give her the widest avenue of deniability,” Folks said. “We agreed on the language I would use. The term was ‘inappropriate physical relationship.’ We worked together on that specific language.”
Folks said that the alleged affair probably will not hurt Haley as much on the national level as her financial history.
“Eventually at the national level these things are going to be vetted. What’s going to hurt her nationally was in 2006, she and her husband were pretty much flat broke” and then within a year she had many expensive possessions, including fine jewelry and a new house. “I don’t know where that money came from.
“I don’t think her problem is that she screwed around with me and other men,” Folks added. “Her problem is that she is not the person she claimed to be when she ran. She ran as the tea party, the anti-status quo. You could say she is the new face of the status quo.”
In particular, he said Haley’s decision to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina statehouse was a decision made by her corporate masters.
“The flag thing was because Boeing, Volvo, Michelin, and other corporate cronies told her what to do,” Folks said. “Volvo said they weren’t going to re-locate here unless she took down the flag. It was all decided in an office three blocks away from here, the South Carolina Manufacturers.”
The Rubio campaign did not provide comment for this report. Haley’s team also did not reply to requests for comment.
This personal history between the two camps could complicate things on the campaign trail now that Haley has endorsed Rubio for president in the South Carolina primary. Can the Rubio staffers and Haley now put aside their contentious history to work together on the campaign trail?
Rubio-World in 2016 is filled with dormant feuds between the operatives who comprise it.
Rubio’s chief digital strategist Donehue is a well-known political operative with a history of questionable activity in South Carolina politics. As a consultant for firms that were paid by the Mitt Romney campaign in 2008, he reportedly created an anti-Fred Thompson website called phoneyfred.org that called Fred Thompson a onetime “Pro-Choice Skirt Chaser.” The Romney campaign threw Donehue under the bus and claimed he was never an employee.
Amazingly, the Fred Thompson staffer who called for the Romney folks to fire Donehue is now a Rubio staffer, Todd Harris. Harris and Donehue now work together on the Rubio campaign under campaign manager Sullivan, a former Romney aide himself.
Another current Rubio-world figure named Warren Tompkins was also involved in that 2012 fight. Tompkins, who now leads the pro-Rubio super PAC Conservative Solutions PAC, worked for Romney at the time and was also fingered in the website melodrama, though Donehue ended up with the blame.
One key aide to Romney from the time officially unaffiliated with any of the 2016 campaigns recalls Donehue’s mistake, telling Breitbart News that in addition to forcing campaign spokesman Kevin Madden to issue a statement throwing Donehue under the bus the website controversy alsso caught up with Romney himself at a press conference.
“We made it clear that we did not approve of the site and asked for immediate action to make sure it was again in no way affiliated with the campaign,” Madden said at the time. “The person responsible is not an employee of ours, but we took immediate action to make sure it was clear the site was not affiliated with the campaign.”