South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, tried to clarify comments he made on a Charleston radio program Monday, when he theorized that an ethics investigation into his office may be part an effort to weaken the Charleston area’s influence in the state legislature.
Harrell told WTMA on Monday that he believed he had been “targeted” due to his being a Charleston native. He noted that fellow Charlestonian Glenn McConnell had been obligated to resign his powerful post as Senate President pro tempore two years ago in order to take the largely-ceremonial position of lieutenant governor. The move came after the state Attorney General’s Office successfully prosecuted McConnell’s predecessor on ethics charges.
“Folks around the state were able to relieve Charleston of having the President of the Senate,” he told WTMA at the time. “I think folks are coming after the Speaker of the House now. Because I haven’t done anything.”
On Tuesday, Harrell backtracked. He told the Charleston Post & Courier that the theory was being advanced by other Charleston Republicans. “I’ve had a number of people from the Lowcountry tell me that they think that’s what’s going on and that’s what I was trying to express on the radio,” he said. Harrell said he does not believe the theory.
However, he did not give such a caveat during his WTMA interview. Harrell even began his explanation by saying, “I think it is a political event. I think what’s going on is that, I mean, to be perfectly blunt, we used to have the President of the Senate from Charleston, the Speaker of the House from Charleston, and (Governor Sanford) was from down here,” he said. “We had a lot of folks in powerful positions from down here.”
He then noted what happened to McConnell.
A circuit judge is currently considering whether the State Grand Jury has the ability to consider possible indictments against Harrell, or if the ethics complaint should be handled by the House Ethics Committee. Harrell has repeatedly denied the accusations against him and has not been charged with any crime.