Responding to the existence of an audio recording allegedly made by members of his own family, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said Wednesday he “never had a physical affair” with his former communications officer Rebekah Mason.
However, he did say he’d made inappropriate comments to her over a period of time and Mason had reciprocated those statements — giving credence to claims former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Spencer Collier made earlier in the day following his removal from office March 22.“Today is a difficult day for me. The recordings that were referred to by Spencer Collier were actually made two years ago,” Bentley told reporters. “Since that time, I’ve apologized to members of my family, to Mrs. Mason and her family. I apologized to them for any conversation and behavior that was inappropriate. Today, I want to apologize to the people of the state of Alabama. I am truly sorry and I accept responsibility.”
Only hours before, Collier held a press conference at his attorney’s office describing an audio recording that appears to be Bentley discussing past sexual encounters with Mason in several locations including his office in the Capitol.
Yellowhammer News reported to have the audio in its possession on Wednesday but the website has not published the recordings themselves.
Though he said he’d never heard nor seen an audio recording, Bentley said he’s “been told about the possibly of tapes for two years.”
At the press conference, Bentley repeatedly denied any physical or romantic relationship with Mason, saying she had worked for him “in various capacities” dating back to his first gubernatorial campaign in 2010. He described Mason as his “closest aide and confidant,” but denied Collier’s claims he was “madly in love” with her.
“I love many members of my staff,” Bentley said. “Do I love some more than others? Absolutely.”
When asked by reporters, Bentley said he had not given any consideration to resigning in light of the accusations. Instead, Bentley said he wanted his family and state to “move forward.”
He also denied making any effort to cover up the alleged affair as well as claims that public funds were used to facilitate it.
“I can assure the people of Alabama that, as their governor, I have never done anything illegal. I have never asked any member of my staff or any cabinet member to lie, despite what the former ALEA secretary said today,” Bentley continued. “At no time have I ever used the resources of my office to facilitate a relationship of any kind.”
Prior to Bentley’s comments, current ALEA Secretary Stan Stabler also denied statements Collier made that suggested he had knowledge of an affair between the two.
“The allegations and implications of me intercepting a sexually explicit text message are completely false and without merit,” Stabler said.
In addition to his statements about an affair, Collier also claimed several recent terminations at ALEA were motivated by a coverup of the affair. However, Stabler denied those accusations as well — describing the cuts as cost-saving measures that saved the agency more than $250,000.