Say what you will about Will Folks, but you can’t deny there’s a certain sincerity to his self-aggrandizing spiels about his alleged “inappropriate physical relationship” with Gov. Nikki Haley.

And this earnestness is even more evident when you speak to him on the phone.

Folks answers questions directly, and he doesn’t flinch when a certain reporter tells him exactly what he thinks about him — some of it good, some of it really, really bad.

But the same can’t be said about Haley Chief of Staff Tim Pearson. When asked about the allegation — and his role in the failed attempt to squash the claims as they were about to be made public — and you’ll get one semi-artful dodge after another.

A few weeks back, on Fri. Jan. 21 to be exact, the College of Charleston hosted a panel discussion, featuring Pearson and three other politicos, that were designed to examine the 2010 gubernatorial campaign that had Nikki Haley beating her Democratic opponent Vincent Sheheen by a much smaller than expected margin. (You can read Greg Hambrick’s story about the panel discussion here.)

While Folk’s claims did come up — and kudos for the P&C’s Robert Behre for pressing the issue — any serious discussion of the allegations and the groundswell of support that Haley received as a result of the claims were more or less glossed over.

As for why, you can point your finger at GOP consultant Chris Allen, one of the four panel speakers, who deftly asked moderator Behre and the other panelists to limit discussion about the claims, and what can only be called a complicit politeness by the panel’s two Democratic speakers, Sheheen campaign manager Trav Robertson and SC New Democrats head Phil Noble.

The result, of course, was that the defining issue of the 2010 campaign was virtually ignored. But that’s not a surprise.

The Haley campaign has dodged the issue from the moment the claims were first made by Folks. And to this day, they are using their skill at avoiding the press to their advantage, while the ever-courteous press, by and large, plays along like a pack of timid courtesans waiting for that one moment when the queen looks their way and feeds them a time-tested sound bite.

Make no mistake about it, ladies and gentlemen, Haley and her handlers are clearly afraid of the press because they know there are just too many questions that the governor and her staff have failed to answer to the anyone’s satisfaction. (Corey Hutchins at the Free Times has an excellent article on the Haley administration’s continued unwillingness to talk to the press.)

Not surprisingly, during the panel discussion, Pearson even went so far as to give the press a thrashing, claiming that “The media is a beast. An uncontrollable beast … It demands accountability of others and has none itself.” But as Greg points out in his column, the press is accountable for its actions, especially when it comes to matters of libel. And so far, Haley has yet to file a libel suit against Folks, and, in my opinion, I doubt that she ever will.

But Pearson is not playing a game of truths. He’s playing a game of dodge and duck, lie and spin. And this was clearly evident when he proclaimed in a smarmy, nearly disinterested manner to Robertson that the Sheheen campaign had resorted to spreading lies in the final days of the campaign, a charge that Robertson rightly denied. After all, hadn’t Haley failed to pay her taxes? Hadn’t she failed to release her legislative e-mails? Hadn’t Haley failed to disclose income she had received as a consultant? These are facts that cannot be disputed. But that apparently doesn’t matter to Pearson, who squirmed in his seat and chewed on his pen like a schoolboy who had been forced to sit through yet another boring discussion about the East India Company and its role in the rise of the British Empire.

And perhaps nothing is more evident of this than the way the now Haley chief of staff responded to one single question, which I asked. The question concerned the text messages Pearson had exchanged with Will Folks in the days before the FITSNews blogger went public with his claims:

Tim, what did you mean when you said: I think we both deny it. I think an affadavit is something we can beat down. Legally and politically.

And then: I’m telling you man, we keep this under wraps and nh is going to win.

His response: “Like I said, I’m not going to get into that. The only thing I’ve ever said about those text messages is that for those of you who were offended by my foul language, I apologize.”

I don’t know what says more about just who Tim Pearson is, the fact that he still refuses to explain exactly what he meant when he spoke of keeping “this under wraps” — beyond indicating that they are in fact genuine — or the manner in which he tried to flippantly blow off the question by apologizing for using bad language.

I would go with the latter, and not because Pearson responded flippantly. Nope. I’m all for that. But what really irks me is this is the a similar way that political consultant Wes Donedue responded to questions about the very same published text messages between him and Folks.

According to Spartanburg’s WSPA, Donehue was asked about his role in the backstage drama leading to Will Folks’ public claim that he had a relationship with Haley.

News Channel 7 also tracked down Wes Donehue Wednesday night, for comment on his appearances in the released texts.

Carlson: “Wes…so did you start this?”

Donehue: “No comment”

Carlson: “Well you are one of the reported “instigators”?

Donehue: “I was drug into something I didn’t want to be drug into. I have no comment on everything else..”

Carlson: “But you had a lot of comments in those texts-how come you have no comment now?”

Donehue: “My texts were private—I didn’t expect them to become public.”

Carlson: “Well their public now… do you regret anything you said in them?”

Donehue: “I regret cursing so much.”

Very original, Tim. Very original.

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