Extra-marital sex and lust in foreign climes – not a love of highland hiking – turned out to be the explanation for the six-day disappearance of the Governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford, which had plunged all of his state and half of America into a guessing-game about his possible whereabouts.
The mystery was solved at last yesterday when the 49-year-old Republican sometimes mentioned as a presidential candidate in 2012, stepped before the microphones and cameras and confessed that he had been in Argentina winding up an affair with a "dear, dear friend" who lives there.
That Mr Sanford had gone AWOL first surfaced at the weekend as reports trickled out that even his wife did not know where he might be. Then on Tuesday his office told reporters that the Governor was merely indulging his passion for hiking in the Appalachian Mountains.
But yesterday, Mr Sanford, who repeatedly stresses his faith to voters, was spotted at Atlanta airport by a reporter and was forced to admit he was returning from Argentina. He then arranged for his press conference where he revealed all: that an email relationship with the other woman had "sparked" into something more and she had become his mistress meeting him three times.
Insisting the affair was over, he said he had spent "the last five days of my life crying in Argentina." He added: "What I did was wrong. Period. End of story. I hurt a lot of different folks."
While he gave up the chairmanship of the Republican Governors' Association he did not say if he would resign the governorship. A second-term governor he commanded national headlines this spring attempting – but ultimately – failing to turn away money from President Obama's stimulus programme.Reuse content