A newly released recording of a state representative’s 2015 phone conversation with Gov. Robert Bentley sheds new light on Bentley’s state of mind — and failure to take responsibility — in the days following his divorce from former First Lady Dianne Bentley and the revelation that he had an inappropriate relationship with a top adviser, Rebekah Caldwell Mason. In the recording, Bentley sternly but unconvincingly seems to shift blame for his recent personal and political woes from himself to others, including “casino gambling” supporters and to the former First Lady.
Muriel Farley, whose husband State Rep. Allen Farley speaks to the governor on the phone call, recently released the recording to conservative blog Yellowhammer News after publishing a personal blog post entitled “Dianne Bentley, My Friend,” in which she reflects that she regrets not being more supportive of the former First Lady in the days after the governor’s scandal began to unfold.
“Maybe, just maybe, I could have picked up on something different about [Dianne Bentley] and been there to help,” Muriel Farley writes in the post. “Maybe, just maybe, her eyes didn’t glitter like they had in previous years. Maybe, just maybe, she needed a shoulder to lean on. So, I now regret my poor decision.”
Farley had stopped attending a Bible study class sometimes led by Dianne Bentley after her husband’s relationship with Gov. Bentley deteriorated following the news of the divorce and its aftermath, a dynamic that plays out in the newly surfaced recording.
Rep. Farley, a Jefferson County Republican, had already begun to question Gov. Bentley’s sincerity and legitimacy in the phone call, which took place before most of the gritty details of Bentley’s improprieties had surfaced.
In the recording, Bentley brought up the issue of the affair, blaming the former First Lady’s “jealousy” for his divorce after Farley says he’s heard an “avalanche” of troubling stories about the governor in the media.
“Allen, first of all let me say this,” Bentley said on the call. “There is no affair going on, OK? That’s one thing. Now, I do have some close advisors. Rebekah is one of my close advisors. And unfortunately there has been jealousy on the part of my wife. But I can tell you that … we’re not having an affair.”
Gov. Bentley goes on to say that his divorce, which Dianne Bentley initiated, was a surprise.
“It was a total shock to me,” Bentley explained to Farley in the call. “I did not know. She had talked about it once or twice, but I said, ‘Dianne, that’s not the answer. We don’t believe in divorce. That’s not the answer.’ But when this happened the other day, I had no clue. I found out about it from WSFA. I found out about it the same time you did. It was a shock to me.”
Bentley told Farley, though, that aside from “jealousy,” the fault for his divorce lies with what he termed “casino gambling people.”
“Casino gambling people are feeding this story,” Bentley said, “[because] they know I’m anti-gambling. These guys, let me tell you what they’re most concerned about. They’re most concerned about a lottery and me signing a compact with the [Poarch Band of Creek] Indians. That’s what they’re concerned about … That is the loaded gun right there. And they will do anything because these guys are poised to make hundreds of millions of dollars.
“I’m not saying that my divorce was totally caused by that, but some of it was because they fed my wife [these stories].” Bentley said. “This is not as simple as people think.”
Simple? Maybe not. Selfish? I think so.
So why the paranoid phone call by the governor to a state representative in the midst of a political maelstrom? Why all the circuitous explanations and avoidances of admitting gubernatorial guilt? To avoid prosecution and accountability, of course.
Throughout the call, Farley explains to the governor — to repeated, sometimes pointed responses by Bentley — that he believes the Alabama attorney general should launch an investigation to be sure there was no misuse of state resources on the governor’s part.
“I want the AG to step up and say, ‘I will look into it and make sure that the state dollars were properly spent by the governor,” Rep. Farley told Bentley. “This is the reason we have an attorney general’s office. I’ll ask him to clear that up. Then we’ll turn the divorce situation over to God. He’ll deal with that. But the AG can go in and look at the records and the travel logs and things like that, and then people don’t have to talk about that anymore. That can be cleared up.”
Farley laid it out: he just wants things cleared up. Nothing more, nothing less. But the governor wasn’t having it.
“Well, the travel logs and all that, that’s public record,” the governor rebutted. “It’s already out there right now, Allen … I’ve explained things to you. I don’t think you need to get Luther [Strange, the attorney general] involved in it, personally. I mean, there’s nothing that we’re trying to hide … The only thing I’m saying is, y’all are using — I mean, whoever’s doing it — is using rumors and innuendo to make accusations that are not founded.”
Almost exactly a year has passed since that phone call was recorded, and Bentley’s wrongdoing is now plain for all to see. All the fears Bentley expressed in that late-night call last August have now come to pass.
Bentley has now admitted to what he called an “inappropriate relationship” with Mason, who he had specifically mentioned to Rep. Farley. Now, Farley and about two dozen other state lawmakers have signed impeachment articles against the governor, and proceedings against him are set to move forward in the months ahead — regardless of who’s the brunt of Bentley’s relentless blame game.
Now, it’s clear to all in Alabama that Gov. Bentley can no longer blame “gambling casino people” for his trysts and tribulations. It’s not their fault. He can’t blame the former First Lady for his derelictions and dalliances. She didn’t do it either.
There’s only one person Gov. Robert Bentley has left to blame, and we all know who it is: himself.