Daniels denies wife had abandoned family

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’s decision not to run for president was based, as much as anything else, on his family’s eagerness to protect its privacy. Yet in making his announcement, he also opened a window onto a painful chapter of their life — the very one that would have drawn uncomfortable scrutiny.

For more than a decade, the governor and his wife, Cheri, had refused to discuss their divorce and remarriage in the 1990s. They have allowed an impression to stand — and be reported in numerous news accounts — that she had abandoned their four daughters, then ages 8 to 14, to move to California to be with another man. Four years after their divorce, she returned and the couple remarried in 1997.

In a separate statement issued to the Indianapolis Star after he announced his decision not to run, Mitch Daniels put that period, and his wife, in a far different light.

“It is important to correct some factually incorrect accounts about the time when our family was divided,” the governor wrote.

He indicated that after a legal contest, “the court agreed with my view that our daughters’ best interests would be served by their staying in Indiana.”

Granted joint custody, he added, Cheri Daniels “purchased a residence just a few minutes from our house. Until we remarried, we shared custody fully, the girls dividing their time between the two homes.”

He added: “The notion that Cheri ever did or would ‘abandon’ her girls or parental duty is the reverse of the truth and absurd to anyone who knows her, as I do, to be the best mother any daughter ever had.”

Karen Tumulty is a national political correspondent for The Washington Post, where she received the 2013 Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting.
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