COLUMBIA, S.C. — National media blitzed Gov. Mark Sanford’s staff, offering big ratings and, possibly, a sympathetic venue in an effort to land the first interview with the governor after his six-day trip to Argentina.
In addition, a blogger and state leaders reached out to Sanford’s office to try to coordinate a way to "push back" on the growing mystery surrounding Sanford’s absence.
The behind-the-scenes maneuvering is detailed in e-mails released by the governor’s office this week in response to The State's request under the freedom of information act.
The e-mails show some outlets promised Sanford “friendly ground,” while others objected to early reports that questioned his disappearance.
“If you all want to speak on this publicly, you’re welcome to Washington Times Radio,” wrote staffer Joseph Deoudes to Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer on June 23. “You know that you will be on friendly ground here!”
Sanford returned from Argentina on June 24.
The Washington Times' executive editor John Solomon said the employee worked in marketing and was assisting the month-old radio show with booking. The use ofthe term "friendly ground" was "inappropriate," Solomon said.
Another reporter, Griff Jenkins of Fox News, invited Sanford on to set the record straight.
“Having known the Governor for years and even worked with him when he would host radio shows for me,” Jenkins wrote to Sawyer on June 23, “I find the story and the media frenzy surrounding it to be absolutely ridiculous!”
The e-mails also show some reached out to the governor on how best to come to his defense.
“If he wants something more personal for the blog to push back, I’m happy to help,” wrote Erick Erickson, a writer for RedState.com. On June 23, Erickson ripped “media speculation” about Sanford’s whereabouts.
“I wasn’t trying to be a reporter. I wanted to curtail the story,” Erickson said by e-mail. “Well that didn’t work.”
ABC News White House reporter Jake Tapper e-mailed Sawyer twice on June 23, both to note coverage of competitor NBC.
With a subject line of “NBC spot was slimy,” Tapper e-mailed Sawyer a “Today” show transcript of Sanford coverage, calling it “insulting.” Later, Tapper forwarded Sawyer a Twitter post by “Meet The Press” host David Gregory.
Jeff Schneider, a vice president at ABC News, said Tapper was “carrying some water for producers who knew he had a relationship with the governor’s office.”
Read the full story at thestate.com