Former SC Gov. Mark Sanford hired by Fox News

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford is joining Fox News as a political commentator through the 2012 presidential elections, a Fox Channel spokeswoman confirmed Saturday.

The network spokeswoman told The Associated Press the two-term Republican governor has been hired as a contributor, though she declined to give any details on his pay or when he would start.

Sanford was a rising political star before he vanished from the state for five days in 2009, and reporters were told he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. When he reappeared, the father of four admitted to being in Argentina with a woman he later called his soul mate.

The international affair destroyed his marriage, which ended in divorce, and derailed his once-promising political career, which had included talk of presidential aspirations.

Sanford faced impeachment hearings in 2009 after the state ethics commission looked into his use of state planes, campaign cash and first-class travel stemming from the affair. The GOP-dominated House issued a formal rebuke but did not impeach Sanford, who paid $74,000 in ethics fines and reimbursed the state for the investigation and for travel and personal expenses.

But Sanford, a former congressman, remained well-regarded in conservative circles. He railed about spending, and his unwillingness to compromise with his fellow GOP leaders in the Legislature resulted in some very public disagreements.

He once toted squirming, defecating piglets to the doors of the House to protest budget veto overrides. He also unsuccessfully sued the Legislature to bar the state from getting federal stimulus money. His persistent warnings about rising deficits and his opposition to federal mandates fed what would become tea party mantras.

The term-limited Sanford has appeared on Fox since leaving office in January. In September, he told the Associated Press his interview with Sean Hannity was his way of slowly getting back to talking about the nation’s troubles.

“I think this represents me sticking my toe back in the water and talking about things I care about,” he said then. “I care passionately about the direction of this country and deficit and debt and all the things that seem to be in vogue right now.”

He reiterated that he had no intentions of getting back into politics, though he noted he’s learned “you never say never in life.”

Sanford did not immediately return phone or e-mail messages Saturday.

Sanford’s new job was first reported by The New York Times.

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