An emotional Gov. Mark Sanford continued his confessions today, saying he had more encounters with a mistress from Argentina than he disclosed last week, including a trip to New York City earlier this year to end the relationship under the supervision of a "trusted spiritual adviser" who accompanied him.
Sanford has identified Warren "Cubby" Culbertson of Columbia, S.C., as one of his closest Christian advisers, but in an interview with me, Culbertson declined to comment when asked if he was the adviser who accompanied Sanford to New York. When the Associated Press asked Culbertson yesterday if he had met Sanford's mistress, Maria Belen Chapur, Culbertson also declined to comment.
Culbertson did say he was unaware of the additional liaisons Sanford said he had with Chapur in New York City and the Hamptons in September and November of last year: "If that's the case, I'm disappointed."
In more revelations, Sanford also admitted that he had "crossed lines" physically with other women, but said he didn't commit adultery until meeting Chapur.
During a press conference last week, Sanford confessed to adultery with the Argentine woman he says he's known for eight years. The governor originally said the affair turned physical last June, and that he visited Chapur three times in Argentina. Tuesday he confessed to additional encounters with Chapur last year in New York, as well as physical encounters with other women before meeting Chapur that "didn't cross the sex line," he said.
Sanford's pattern of giving into temptation underscores something Culbertson said he told Sanford for years: "You need accountability." Last week, the governor said during his time in Congress he leaned on members of C Street, a Christian accountability group in Washington, D.C., and that he turned to some of those members for help after his wife discovered his affair in February.
But Culbertson-a longtime Sanford friend who owns a court-reporting business in Columbia and is well-respected in the city's Christian community-said once Sanford moved to Columbia as governor, accountability broke down. "He's had very little," said Culbertson, who has counseled the Sanfords as a couple since the governor's wife, Jenny, discovered his affair in February and did lead a five-week Bible study with the Sanfords and four other Christian couples in the governor's mansion earlier this year.
It's not that accountability wasn't offered: Culbertson said at least six high-profile Christian politicians and businessmen met with Sanford at the beginning of his first term in 2002 to press Sanford to meet regularly with other Christian men. (By then, Sanford had met Chapur.) Culbertson offered to meet regularly with the governor: "Mark agreed intellectually, but it never happened."
Culbertson said he approached Sanford with the offer several more times over the last couple of years, but Sanford shrugged him off. He said Sanford recently told him, "I'd give anything if I would have done what I said I was going to do."
It's hard to know whether such meetings would have stopped Sanford from having an affair. Earlier Tuesday, Sanford still talked wistfully about his sinful relationship with Chapur, even as his wife and four sons retreated out of state. "This was a whole lot more than an affair, this was a love story," said Sanford. "A forbidden one, a tragic one, but a love story at the end of the day."