April 10, 2017. The day our state’s year-long soap opera finally came to an end with a mug shot and the resignation of Alabama’s 53rd governor, Robert Julian Bentley, otherwise known as the “Luv Guv.” If you had lined up all of the candidates who were running for governor back when Bentley first ran in 2010 and said pick the one you think is most likely to leave office in disgrace because of a sex scandal, Bentley would have been the absolute last one any of us would have chosen.
He was elected primarily because he didn’t seem like your garden-variety sleazeball politician. He was a small-town, folksy, church-going doctor whose wife of 40-something years made him chicken and dumplings and drove him around the state to all of his campaign stops. He seemed like everyone’s grandpa and exactly like the kind of guy who would bring honor to Alabama’s highest office.
But then along came a temptress. Rebekah Caldwell Mason had met Bentley in their church, First Baptist of Tuscaloosa, which she and her husband, Jon, attended. She joined his campaign in 2010 and then transitioned into his administration. She worked out a sweet gig for her husband in the administration, too.
Bentley, a goofy-looking old man who had married young, was probably not accustomed to much outside female attention. He was an easy mark.
Mason lusted for power and money. Bentley lusted for Mason.
Though they seemed like the most unlikely of couples, in hindsight what happened was probably not all that much of a surprise, given the weaknesses and desires of the players involved.
We have all ravenously consumed many of the intimate details of their affair over the last year. The now infamous recording, the bile-inducing, sugary-sweet text messages, the trip to see Celine Dion, the boxer shorts incident, Wanda’s desk and the crazy and, yes, very scary lengths to which the governor went to carry on and conceal his affair with his “love.”
As one of their many text messages read, “We are pitiful.” Yes, indeed, y’all are.
You have to wonder, as officers took his fingerprints earlier this week and he penned the last speech he would deliver as governor, if he truly regretted any of his actions or just regretted getting caught.
This man has lost his office in disgrace, his home, his children and grandchildren, his church and much of his personal wealth, not to mention becoming a national laughing stock. As he spent his last night all alone in the governor’s mansion, did he ever question whether losing all of this was worth it? Was she worth it?
I imagine he will have much time to soul search in the coming months. As will the Masons.
Rebekah had already resigned her post last year after word of this first came out. But Jon kept collecting a paycheck up until this week when our new governor, Kay Ivey, fired him — a paycheck that looked far more like a payment to a pimp than a check for services rendered as the director of SERVE Alabama. I doubt any of the Masons’ church friends will be lining up to help them out this time, nor will anyone require the services of their marketing firm. They are essentially ruined, too.
Was being Alabama’s “de facto governor” for a brief period of time worth it?
I also have to wonder how Dianne Bentley feels about all of this. She is the only person in this sordid affair who deserves our sympathy and should be credited with making sure these people will never serve in public office again.
How devastating it must have been when her technologically challenged husband accidentally texted her “I love you Rebekah.” Not to mention having to read every single text her husband was sending to his paramour because he didn’t realize his iPhone was connected to her iPad.
He even asked her not to post pictures to Facebook of his birthday party because it would upset his mistress. Ick.
A self-described shy woman who hated public speaking, she said the governor emotionally abused her and knew she had low self-esteem.
A terrible governor, husband and adulterer. He really is a triple threat.
But hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Even a “shy” one.
With the help of her chief of staff Heather Hannah, who refused to bow to Bentley’s throne, as he put it, Dianne methodically took screenshots of all her husband’s text messages to Mason and captured not just the talk of her husband describing how he loved touching Mason’s breasts, but also a recording of him singing to her. Ick. Ick. Ick.
It must have been devastating for Mrs. Bentley. But she did it and this evidence is ultimately what caused her husband to lose it and abuse the power of his office by ordering state law enforcement officials to track these recordings down, among many other questionable things.
Bravo, Mrs. Bentley. And you too, Heather Hannah. You ladies didn’t bow down to his throne, you took it away from him. And it needed to be taken.
No, he isn’t the first person to have an affair. But when he started ordering law enforcement officials to do unethical things to cover it up and intimidating people like Ms. Hannah himself, well, that goes far beyond just breaking your marriage vows.
But in addition to misusing the office, this has been a huge embarrassment, distraction and costly investigation for our state to endure.
But thankfully we can all finally move on.
Gov. Ivey has pledged to run her office with openness and transparency, things we haven’t seen from the office of the governor in quite some time. Let’s hope she keeps her word. And she remembers, the governor bows down to the people of Alabama, not the other way around.