South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford's abrupt and unannounced departure last week -- and conflicting stories given by family and staff about his whereabouts over Father's Day weekend -- have provoked a torrent of media speculation.
The State -- newspaper of Columbia, S.C. -- ran an exclusive interview with Sanford this morning, in which he reveals that, on a whim, he had decided to fly to South America to visit Buenos Aires because it's "exotic" and "a great city."
The story reveals that Sanford actually planned a longer trip but cut it short "after his chief of staff, Scott English, told him his trip was gaining a lot of media attention and he needed to come back."
An interesting sidenote: It was an odd time to visit Buenos Aires, which is now in the dead of winter. As the Lonely Planet travel guide notes in its "When to go" section on Buenos Aires:
If they don't know it already, travelers from the northern hemisphere
will soon realize that the southern hemisphere's seasons are completely
reversed. Summer runs December to February; fall is March to May;
winter is June to August; and spring is September to November.
In terms of weather, spring (September to November) and fall (March to May) are the best seasons to visit Buenos Aires.
The State also provides this handy timeline of the confusion surrounding Gov. Sanford's departure, up to this morning's revelations about his jaunt to Argentina.
Accounts of Gov. Mark Sanford's four-day walkabout from his public
duties remain unclear and, in some instances, contradictory. A look at
what is known and how accounts by Sanford's staff have changed as word
of his mystery trip became known and public officials became alarmed:
Sanford leaves the Governor's Mansion in a
black State Law Enforcement Division Suburban assigned to his security
detail. A precise time is unavailable.
A mobile telephone tower in Atlanta near
Hartsfield airport picks up a signal from Sanford's phone. It is the
last signal before his phones are turned off for days.
Law enforcement officials get no response to phone and text messages sent to Sanford.
The governor's office reports to police that there is no reason for concern but provides no details.
State Sen. Jake Knotts, R-Lexington, calls SLED
chief Reggie Lloyd about rumors that no one knows where Sanford is and
no one can reach him. Lloyd confirms that Sanford's whereabouts are
Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer learns Sanford's whereabouts are unknown.
Monday morning -- Reporters hear rumors that Sanford's location is a mystery.
2:30 p.m. Knotts issues a statement raising
questions about Sanford's absence, asking who is in charge of the
executive branch of S.C. government.
2:40 p.m. The State newspaper posts an online article saying Sanford has been out of reach for four days.
2:50 p.m. The governor's office issues a
statement that Sanford "is taking some time away from the office this
week to recharge after the stimulus battle. ... We are not going to
discuss the specifics."
3 p.m. The Associated Press reports that first
lady Jenny Sanford says she does not know where her husband is, but he
is taking time away from their four boys, "to write something." She
says she is not worried.
Midafternoon Sanford security officials are told by the governor's office that he is OK. No details are provided.
3:40 p.m. The lieutenant governor's office says Sanford's office says it has spoken to Sanford and knows where he is.
About 5 p.m. Sawyer denies that Sanford staffers told Bauer's office that someone had spoken with the governor.
5 p.m. As media inquiries escalate to include
national news outlets, Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer issues another
statement. It says in part, "Before leaving last week, (Sanford) let
staff know his whereabouts and that he'd be difficult to reach." He
declines to elaborate. Sawyer also doesn't know whether Sanford is
still in the country.
10:05 p.m. The governor's office issues a
statement saying Sanford is hiking on the Appalachian Trail. Staff
members do not know where Sanford is on the trail and will not say
whether he is hiking with anyone.
9:42 a.m. The governor's office issues a statement saying staffers have spoken with Sanford and he will return to work today.