Sanford Spokesman ‘Ready To Move On’

By John O’Connor – [email protected]

The State
Aug 5 2009
South Carolina

Joel Sawyer, the spokesman for Gov. Mark Sanford’s administration
the past four years, will issue his final statement today.

Sawyer is leaving to start his own communications consulting firm,
which will focus on political and public policy clients.

With charts and graphs at hand to illustrate an idea, Sawyer always
had a market-based defense of Sanford’s positions ready. If needed,
Sawyer was aggressive, argumentative and thorough with reporters and
stories the office disputed.

But Sawyer will also be linked to Sanford’s six-day disappearance to
visit his Argentinean lover. After admonishing members of the media
skeptical of the story, Sawyer sent out a 10 p.m. e-mail that said
the governor was hiking the Appalachian Trail; that story proved to
be false.

Sanford later admitted he had misled his staff and apologized. Sawyer
said he has forgiven the governor and still believes in Sanford’s
goal of smaller, more efficient government.

"I know I never intentionally misled anyone," Sawyer, 32, said. "I was
disappointed like everybody else. I think forgiveness is important. I
forgive him. Like a lot of people I’m ready to move on."

Sawyer said he felt he had to stay long enough to help the governor
"weather the storm."

Sanford approached Sawyer — then a reporter with The (Spartanburg)
Herald-Journal — shortly after winning election in 2002, hiring him
as a speechwriter. Sawyer, who said he agreed with Sanford nine times
out of 10 on issues, started the day after Sanford’s first State of
the State speech. It drew criticism for a reference to Turkish leader
Ataturk, whom many blame for the first modern genocide of Armenians
and Christians.

Sanford’s preference to improvise speeches, Sawyer said, made life
difficult as a speechwriter.

In 2005, Sawyer took over as spokesman when Will Folks left Sanford’s
staff. Observers said Sawyer brought a different style to the job than
the combative Folks, whose statements occasionally became the story.

"I think he did a good job," said Russ McKinney, a press secretary
for former Gov. Dick Riley and the University of South Carolina. "Joel
was always in sync with the governor’s thinking and message."

A press secretary has to serve his boss, McKinney said, but also has
a duty to provide the truth to the press and public.

"It’s a juggling act in some respects," McKinney said, noting that
the State House is more "combative" than when he worked for Riley.

Zane Wilson, an 11-year State House veteran with The (Myrtle Beach)
Sun News, said Sawyer could be a difficult adversary. Wilson retired
from the paper last year.

"Sometimes it was like pulling teeth," Wilson said. "He was more of
a guardian for his boss’s political position than he was a person
who was there to clarify facts."

Lawmakers and others have accused Sanford of cherry-picking details
that support his positions, particularly his characterization of
state debt during the stimulus debate earlier this year.

Sawyer said those who disagree with Sanford often accuse the office
of playing politics.

"There’s always some interplay between politics and government," Sawyer
said. "I think that we’ve done a pretty good job as an administration
of using facts to build our arguments.

Sawyer said he’s learned two important things from his time with
Sanford: to never take anything personally; and to quickly learn a
lot of information about a new topic — such as ports or unemployment
benefits. Sawyer also knew how important it was to quickly return
media phone calls.

Sawyer will be replaced by Ben Fox, who has worked as Sanford’s
Cabinet liaison.

Any advice for Sanford or Fox?

"Not publicly, no," Sawyer said.

Reach O’Connor at (803) 771-8358.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS