Lack of Proof Not a Problem as MSNBC Touts Affair Claims Against S.C. Republican

MSNBC on Friday didn't let lack of proof stand in the way of interviewing a man claiming he had an affair with a conservative favorite, South Carolina gubernatorial hopeful Nikki Haley. Tamron Hall talked to lobbyist Larry Marchant and announced, "Her campaign is, again, denying a second allegation that Haley, a married mother of two, cheated on her husband."

Hall did conduct a tough interview with Marchant, demanding, "What proof do you have? What proof do you have that you had an affair? She says it didn't happen." The News Live host repeatedly pressed the lobbyist, who was just let go from a position with a competing Republican candidate.

After Marchant offered nothing more than his own word, Hall derided, "Larry, I gotta stop you here because of a couple things. You say you went to dinner and all these other things. That is that's not proof had you a sexual encounter with her." Yet, if the News Live host and the producers at MSNBC found his story to be so lacking, why have him on the network at all?

Isn't that what pre-interviews are for? It's true that this is the secondly largely unsubstantiated assertion about Haley. But, would Hall promote such flimsy charges against a powerful Democrat? It's not as though many journalists were flocking to cover the John Edwards adultery story.

In another odd moment, Hall prefaced the allegations by noting a racist attack on Haley from a state senator. The anchor explained that Jake Knots "is now apologizing for referring to a colleague, a Republican state representative, Nikki Haley, with an ethnic slur."

Hall didn't mention what slur. She vaguely added, "Jake Knotts was on an internet radio show when he referred to both President Obama and Haley with this slur." In fact, Knotts called Haley a "raghead."

So, Hall will leave it to viewers to guess what insult a politician used, but heavily promotes the unverifiable claims of a fired lobbyist?

A transcript of the June 4 segment, which aired at 11:10 am EDT, follows;

TAMRON HALL: And race and politics in South Carolina's primary. A Republican state senator is now apologizing for referring to a colleague, a Republican state representative, Nikki Haley, with an ethnic slur. Yesterday state senator Jake Knotts was on an internet radio show when he referred to both President Obama and Haley with this slur. Haley who is of Indian descent is the leading GOP candidate in next week's primary. Knotts issued a statement, saying that the comments were, quote, "intended to be in jest." And that is not the only battle Nikki Haley is fighting today. Her campaign is, again, denying a second allegation that Haley, a married mother of two, cheated on her husband. Larry Marchant, a prominent Republican lobbyist claims that it happened two years ago. And just last week, it was Will Folks, a political blogger and former aide to governor Mark Sanford who claimed that he had an inappropriate relationship with Haley in 2007. Now, Haley denies both allegations and is accusing her rival, the state's Lieutenant Governor, Andre Bauer, of being behind these attacks. Larry Marchant is a lobbyist with the Palmetto Policy Group. He was let go, actually, as a campaign consultant to Bauer. This just happening on Wednesday. We should note, we've reached out to Nikki Haley and declined a request for interview. But, with us now is Larry Marchant. Thank you so much for joining me, sir.

LARRY MARCHANT: Glad to be here. Thank you.

HALL: Why did you decide to come out with this allegation that you had a relationship- I believe it was a one-night stand, if you will, with Nikki Haley?

MARCHANT: Well, when Mr. Folks gave his allegations of Miss Haley over a week ago, and I saw her defiant response and then saw that campaign basically spend the next couple of days discrediting Mr. Folks, I knew what happened between Ms. Haley and I two years ago in Salt Lake City. It was- it was- unfortunate incident. I think it was something we probably both regret, but I know what happened. And I just couldn't sit back and continue to watch the lies going back and forth, especially on the heels of-

HALL: What proof do you have? What proof do you have that you had an affair? She says it didn't happen.

MARCHANT: Well, you know, it is funny. She declined an interview with you today.

HALL: Which is her right, her choice. But, that doesn't mean have you have proof had you an affair. What's your proof?

MARCHANT: The proof is that I have- I was there. We both stayed at the Marriott Downtown Salt Lake City on June 14th. We both went to dinner together with some other people, too. We both went to two bars in which I know what the name of the bars were because I have credit card receipts and she was with me. Now, the question is this: Her campaign continues to issue a blanket statement, it didn't happen.

HALL: Right.

MARCHANT: She has never, ever addressed was she in Salt Lake City with me. Did she go to dinner with me? Did we go out and stay out past midnight together in bars? And did we go back to the hotel? The campaign has yet to address those questions. And I was just simply asking- I'm asking her to come clean like I did, one of the toughest things I did was address this with my wife a week ago. I had no intentions in going public at the beginning. And it was only until after newspaper reporters started asking questions that I felt like I needed to tell the truth.

HALL: Larry, I gotta stop you here because of a couple things. You say you went to dinner and all these other things. That is that's not proof had you a sexual encounter with her. None of those things are proof of that. What's your point here? Is this to clear your mind with your wife or is it to derail her campaign? Why come out now and provide this allegation to the public? What do you want?

MARCHANT: The only reason- the only- I don't want anything. As a matter of fact, I have nothing to gain. I've got the a lot to lose. I have got a professional reputation. I have a marriage I'm trying to piece together. My wife is six months pregnant. She's going through a lot. She's hanging in there with me by a thread. Got a lot of work to do there. My family is disappointed. We are on the heels of one of the stay's most embarrassing moments with Mark Sanford. I felt I could not -- if I'm asked, I was not going to lie. Unless I have pictures-

HALL: Why were you let go from the Bauer campaign on Wednesday? Why did they let you go as a consultant on Wednesday with Andre Bauer?

MARCHANT: I tendered my resignation Mr. Bauer. He accepted it. We discussed it. I disclosed this incident with him at the end of last week because here were rumors starting to move around the state house about Ms. Haley and I. Now, you know, what you probably don't know, I'm the chief insurance lobbyist in the state and she used to be a member of the insurance subcommittee.

HALL: Right.

MARCHANT: And we had a very close working relationship several years ago, about the time that this incident happened. And there were rumors going around then. And those rumors started coming back Mr. Folks did his allegations and I felt like I owed it to Mr. Bauer to tell him that. We discussed it. He didn't approve. He told me if this went public I would have to tender my resignation. I did that at 12:00, Wednesday.

HALL: And that's what happened. Well, Larry, we greatly you appreciate coming on. And, for the record, Nikki Haley denies she's had any kind of sexual encounter with you or with Will Folks. Thank you for your time.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org