Joel Sawyer calls it quits


That's Joel at right, with his hand on the governor's arm.

Looks like I’ll have to contact somebody else to add me to the e-mail distribution list for the gov’s weekly schedules. Press spokesman Joel Sawyer, whom the governor left high and dry with no hint of where he actually was when he went AWOL, is leaving that increasingly thankless job, according to The State:

Gov. Mark Sanford’s communications director, Joel Sawyer, said today he is leaving for an unspecified private-sector job, effective Aug. 5.

Sawyer said his decision to leave his $65,000-a-year job had nothing to do with Sanford’s recent six-day disappearance and the Republican governor’s subsequent disclosure of an affair with an Argentine woman.

“I want to be crystal clear that my departure is purely about what’s best for me and my family on a personal and financial level,” Sawyer said in a statement. “I wish Mark and the rest of my talented and dedicated colleagues the best.”

I’d like to take this opportunity to say that, while we may have disagreed about some things, Joel Sawyer was always thoroughly professional in my dealings with him. I would trust him with my life — in fact, I have. I hope he found a great new job.

28 thoughts on “Joel Sawyer calls it quits

  1. Claudia

    65K?? Wow… I never looked him up. Amazing that he stuck it out as long as he did; there must have been at least some personal motivation keeping him there. Which does make you wonder just how troubling he found it when Sanford left him flapping in the wind…

  2. Jerry

    If Joel had any guts this is along the lines of what he should write: “Frankly I was disgusted by the actions of Governor Sanford and the way I was mislead and forced to lie to protect him. Now everyday I have to justify his absence from his job and his hypocritical behavior. He has made the empty promise of regaining the trust of the people of South Carolina, instead he just runs and hides. The people of South Carolina deserve better and I cannot be his propaganda minister anymore.”

  3. Burl Burlingame

    Jobs like this get churned regularly.
    I found the link interesting. I never eat at public functions either, when I’m there as press. Doesn’t seem right.

  4. kbfenner

    $65K isn’t good money for you guys? Many of my lawyer friends would be very happy with $65K.

  5. Claudia

    Well, kb, it’s way more than I make, but not enough to get me to sign up for that job… I wouldn’t pass the vet-test, anyway! 😉

  6. Bart

    Brad, the Sanford issue has been beaten to death. Why don’t you put your talents to use, get a copy of the proposed health care plan and put it out for discussion. Sanford’s issues are becoming nothing more than a distraction from the business of running the state and away from the antics going on in Washington.

    The proposed health care package is rift with language and provisions that will create a path to a system that will be exceedingly expensive and another boondoggle for the taxpayers. The bill is over 1,000 pages long and like the TARP and stimulus package, no one in Washington has read the thing unless you consider the committee members and they depend on a Reader’s Digest version compiled by staffers.

    This behavior is borderline criminal and yes, treasonous by our so-called elected representatives.

    So, leave Sanford alone for a few days, do some research, and provide a service to your readers.

  7. SGMret

    On the face of it, Jerry, I would agree with you. But, as satisfying as that might be for Joel, he’s a professional PR guy. It would probably be a “breach of his professional ethics” to throw his client under the bus.

    If he’s looking for another $65K or better job, he needs to be on his best behavior.

    So, I have a question: Who pays for these political mouth pieces like Joel Sawyer, Robert Gibbs or Tony Snow? (That’s a rhetorical question.)

    So the real question is why do the tax payers put up with it?

    If the real job of these guys is to obfuscate, lie and cover-up (they are, after all, paid to look after their boss’s propaganda and public image interests and not the informational interests of the taxpayers), why are they on the government dole? What kind of idiocy are we involved in when we elect somebody and then pay another person to cover-up what the elected guy does in office?

  8. bj

    Maybe Joel can get a job with his friend, Stewart Moore at WISTV

    Following from TPM Muckraker via FOI request for emails

    “• Stewart Moore, the anchor for local South Carolina news station WIS-TV, showed great news judgment, writing:
    Off the record, I think this whole thing is ridiculous. Sounds like slow news day stuff.

    On the record; for the sake of good journalism, is there any way we can get the governor on for a phoner @ 6:30am? I think that will end the crazy situation we both find ourselves, more so you, in.

    Thanks dude.”

  9. Jerry

    Was Sawyer the guy that said that most unemployed were sitting at home doing drugs? If so THWH

  10. martin

    No, that was Joe Taylor at the Dept of Commerce, doing some serious economic development.
    Of course, now we know taking a side trip to Argentina for 5 days of bird hunting after a 1 day “business” meeting in Brazil is more important than bringing silly ole jobs here.

  11. RalphHightower

    Wrong person resigned.

    Shoulda been SC Guv’not Mark Sanford!

    What if everyone on the Governot’s staff resigned? What kind of message would that send to SC Governot Mark Sanford? Would he even understand his staff’s total lack of confidence?


    Our “penny pinching” Governot believes in saving South Carolina money by flying on coach; that policy applies to everybody, except His Royal Highness! He flies First Class while everybody else flies Coach.

  12. Lee Muller

    While we’re fantasizing, what if the legislators who voted to spending all the $4 billion of surplus tax revenues during the Bush Boom years, and fought for this Pelosi Bailout money would just commit hari kari by ritual disembowelment…, so we could start with a new legislature.

  13. Randy E

    Sanford offers an arrogant, hypocritical and specious apology to South Carolinians. “God will make him better.” In other words, he is allowed to play a religious “get out of jail” card and all is forgiven.

    He write of grace. Where was this grace as he publicly condemned others who committed adultery. Where was his belief in grace when he was playing his religion card throughout his public service. So grace matters when it involves HIM.

    Sanford committed ongoing, premeditated adultery. He should resign using the sentence “I do not deserve this job and SC deserves better.”

  14. Bart

    Randy E, forgiveness is one thing, being held accoutable is another. While I do forgive Sanford, as posted before, he is responsible for his actions and therefore must be held accountable and face whatever punishment is appropriate for his misdeeds whether criminal or not.

    If we can’t forgive, then we are nothing more than educated savages. Espousing Christian beliefs is hypocritical if we are not capable of forgiving someone when they ask for it. Does that mean they get “Get Out of Jail Free” card? No, it doesn’t and so far, I don’t believe anyone on this blog has stated otherwise when it comes to what Sanford has done.

    So far, most have expressed concerns with the alternative of having Bauer replace him. Then, considering who is next in line, the situation gets worse.

    About the only option left would be to have a special election and let the voters decide who should replace him if he resigne.

    Until the day comes when the legislature decides on any action, the job belongs to Sanford.

  15. Steve Gordy

    At least Joel left under better circumstances than his predecessor (lest we forget).

  16. Randy E

    Bart, true repentance involves action. Saying you’re sorry is not enough; you have to accept the consequences.

    Suppose Sanford is not sorry but simply wants to get out from under this mess, what would he say? He’d say he’s sorry and will do better – the same thing he’s saying now. When he was still riding the high horse, he pressured others to resign for the same betrayal using his religious standards.

    I believe sincere regret would involve the apology, an admittance of the standard he set for others who committed his transgressions, and a resignation as evidence that these standards are important. E.g. “I am sorry for my sin, my betrayal of my wife and kids and of my constituents. I repeatedly and strongly lobbied for others to resign for similar affronts. It was the right thing then as it is now therefore I am resigning.”

    At that point I would believe him. Given that his transgressions involved mutliple women (sex line or no sex line), a long term and premeditated affair with his mistress, and the fact that he received “spiritual counseling” repeatedly but still continued the affair it seems being caught is behind his spiritual rebirth.

  17. SGMret

    Randy, you say that “true repentance involves action” which is going beyond “saying you’re sorry” to “accepting the consequences.” That’s good so far as it goes.

    However, sir, you make a leap which is too far when you presume to define the “consequences” as including resignation. That may be what you wish for, but that doesn’t automatically make it a “consequence” that Sanford must accept.

    The simple fact is that neither you, nor I can measure Sanford’s degree of “true repentance.” You demand that he perform some specific public act of contrition, a specific act that you have decided upon. I suspect that this is a standard that you don’t apply to yourself, much less any of the government leaders that you actually endorse.

    For example, what public act of contrition (beyond “saying [he was] sorry”) did you demand of Clinton for his sexual harassment of one of his subordinates committed in the White House? When you personally do something wrong, do you solicit from perfect strangers their demands as to what “consequences” you should bear in order to prove your “repentance”? As I said, I suspect not.

    Although I agree that Sanford should resign, I believe that he should do so because he’s completely ineffective. His ineffectiveness at this time is entirely self-inflicted, and he has no one to blame but himself. No hypocritical moral or ethical arguments are needed.

  18. doug_ross

    I agree with Randy. Sanford’s resignation is the only acceptable response that would truly convey both to his family and to the people who elected him that he understood the magnitude of his bad judgment.

    It doesn’t matter who is in the Governor’s job anyway. It’s a figurehead position with no power.

    And if Sanford truly wanted to push his smaller government agenda, his resignation would push Hugh Leatherman out of his current role as puppetmaster of excess spending into the powerless role of Lt. Governor.

  19. Birch Barlow

    He write of grace. Where was this grace as he publicly condemned others who committed adultery. Where was his belief in grace when he was playing his religion card throughout his public service. So grace matters when it involves HIM.

    I guess one doesn’t really understand forgiveness until he needs it himself. I’m quite certain Mark Sanford understands it better now than when he was dealing with the former President. He was wrong to deny forgiveness and grace to Clinton. I think it would be wrong for us to deny him the same. After all, I bet most of us have played or will play the hypocrite at some point in our lives. I know I have. Hopefully when we do, we are surrounded by graceful and forgiving people.

    On the issue of his resignation, if this distraction does not allow him to perform his job in an acceptable manner then he absolutely needs to resign. Even if that is not the case, in my opinion resigning would be the right thing to do given the lack of faith most South Carolinians have in him. But that is up to Sanford to decide. Regardless of whatever he decides, it’s time to move on. Besides, if he truly has been humbled, he’ll be a better governor now than the one he was before who refused to work with the legislature. So at least we have that going for us.

  20. SGMret

    Doug, I guess I’m just in an argumentive mood, which means that I probably shouldn’t actually post a reply, but I’m going to anyway.

    Your demand that Sanford resign in order to “covey” his understanding of “the magnitude of his bad judgment” seems to be just as self-serving as Randy’s argument.

    While Randy demands that Sanford demonstrate his repentance, you want him to demonstrate his understanding. Unfortunately, neither of you can have what you claim to want since neither of you can ever actually know Sanford’s depth of true repentance or understanding no matter what he does.

    And what would it matter to you if you could know? Would you say, “Well, I guess he’s learned his lesson and won’t ever do that again. He’s now a better person for it.” Of course, not.

    What you both really want is for Sanford to just resign because you don’t like his politics. So why don’t you simply say it? Your problem is that neither of you actually wants to hold him accountable for failing to live up to personal moral and ethical standards of behavior that he imposed upon himself because neither of you actually believes in those same standards. If you did, you would have demanded that Clinton resign.

    What you both are doing is simply enjoying throwing those standards back at the people, like Sanford, who profess to believe in them. But because you don’t hold the politicians you do like to those same standards, your arguments and demands don’t hold water in regards to Sanford.

    Your moral certitude is not founded on equally sound moral clarity. You’re trying to craft arguments to take advantage of what you perceive as Sanford’s hypocrisy, while trying to avoid the same charges for yourselves.

    You want to have your cake and eat it, too. Unfortunately, you both just come off sounding foolishly shallow and self-serving.

  21. Bart

    I do not disagree that true repentance involves actions but who is to determine what those actions are to be? You, me, doug, Brad, Birch, SGMret, Lee, who?

    If we are going to invoke biblical teachings into the equation, then let’s do it the right way. When Jesus confronted the men who were about to stone the prostitute, he admonished them with the words, “Let he among you who is without sin, cast the first stone”. And, there is the other standard, “Judge not lest you be judged”.

    One more to consider. If you are a true adherent to the teachings of Jesus, then consider this. If you are married and look at another person and lust after them in your heart, then you have committed adultery just the same as if the physical act had taken place. The teachings of Jesus goes directly to the condition of the heart. Now, how many readers and contributors to this blog can honestly say they have never had those thoughts about another person they are not married to? How many have felt guilty afterwards and asked for forgiveness in prayer?

    I have no way of actually knowing what is in Mark Sanford’s heart. I don’t know if he is truly regretful and repentant or not. Is he trying to salvage his marriage and career with genuine repentance? Is he placing his marriage as the top priority in this fiasco? I hope so because at the end of it all, losing your family would have to be the greatest loss or at least it would be to me.

    Viewing the situation in a pragmatic manner, Sanford apparently has lost the trust of the people of South Carolina. He had another side that was not known until the affair was revealed. Then, the man behind the curtain was exposed and so were his foibles. Are his transgressions so egregious as to disqualify him to remain as governor? Is the devil we know preferable to the one we don’t? We all have opinions about his effectiveness as governor and they are varied indeed.

    Each transgression on its own may not be enough to demand his resignation but the accumulation or sum total of the column of transgressions certainly points to the need for him to resign.

    As much as I believe a wounded Sanford is better than a well Bauer, there comes a time when it is prudent to move on. For Sanford and his family, I believe that time has come.

    And, I like what doug said about Leatherman. Move him into a position of irrelevance and maybe this state can take a baby step forward. Some good may come of this after all.

  22. doug_ross


    Unfortunately, I absolutely am 100% behind Sanford on his politics. I voted for him twice… I admired his principled stand on the stimulus money. I support his views on vouchers. And he disappointed me more than any other politician ever has — which is saying a lot for someone who holds such contempt for career politicians who profit off the public.

    But in my view, family comes first. He is in the fairly unique position of being independently wealthy so that he doesn’t need to remain governor to support his family. The message he is sending his boys is “Being governor means more to me than fixing my marriage and trying to set a better example for my sons”. If you think his sons have not been damaged by this, you are kidding yourself. They need his time, not his public service. They need him more than we do.

    Sanford has pretty much destroyed the viability in South Carolina of the “small government” libertarian view that I hold so strongly. He can no longer hold the legislature up for ridicule and have it mean anything. He should step aside and let someone else carry the torch.

    As I said, we’re better off with Leatherman in the Lt. Gov office than Sanford in the Governor’s seat.

  23. doug_ross

    And to be clear – I don’t need an apology from Mark Sanford. What he did was stupid but beyond the specifics of the affair and the impact it had on his family, going AWOL for a week didn’t matter to me a bit.

    There are many more transgression being perpetrated on the taxpayers by current members of the Legislature that deserve apologies.

  24. SGMret

    Doug, I stand (or rather sit in front of my keyboard) corrected IRT my comments about your political preferences. I apologize for taking the liberty of assigning those incorrect motives to you. I should have paid more attention to the totality of your comments rather than focusing on how you made just one of your points.

    Sanford has disappointed me as well. However, I still think the arguments that he should resign because he violated family-values standards of behavior are misplaced. While he may be accountable to his family for his personal conduct, he is accountable to the people of SC for his ability (or lack thereof) to perform his duties as governor.

    Is he is unable or unwilling to perform those duties satisfactorily is the question. If he cannot (as apparently you and I both believe), then he should resign. How and why he came to this state (i.e. his failings in personal behavior) is not the reason for the resignation, though.

    I do agree with your personal position about family first. If I were in Sanford’s shoes, I would have no hesitation about resigning to put my wife and children first. (But then again, I would never have done what he has because I actually do put my wife and children first.) However, that would be a decision between me and my family, not me and the people of SC.

    The people of SC might think that Sanford’s a hypocrite and they may not trust him, but hypocrisy and untrustworthiness are only of importance in how they reflect on his effectiveness and ability to perform his gubernatorial duties. Other than expressions of mere distaste, I’ve yet to read or hear any good arguments that tie those personal characteristics to his performance. As much as I might believe that he is hurting his family, he is not accountable to me for that. I voted for him for governor; I didn’t marry him.

    Finally, I also neglected to acknowledge your points about Leatherman which I agree with wholeheartedly.

  25. Lee Muller

    Putting Leatherman in the Lt Governor’s office would be one way to get rid of him as a Senator.

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