Much of the report released by Jack Sharman, special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee, which considered former Gov. Robert Bentley’s impeachment, has been widely reported. It’s 131 pages, and the thousands of pages of accompanying evidence have been required reading for Alabama’s political press over the last week.
Still, though, there’s plenty of material — lots of magic moments — that haven’t yet been brought to the public’s attention. Here are 12 you should know about from the report. You may want to sit down.
1. In one of the recordings handed over to the impeachment committee by former First Lady Dianne Bentley, the disgraced governor begins singing to Rebekah Caldwell Mason. If you’re a fan of the Drifters, you may want to move on to the next item in this list. For the rest of you, I’ll quote then-Gov. Bentley for you, although he didn’t get the lyrics quite right: “The magic moment …”
2. After her inappropriate relationship with Bentley became public, ABC’s “The View,” my preferred daytime talk show, invited Mason on the show. “As a heads up,” a top Bentley aide wrote to Mason via text message, “The View (the show in NYC) wants to have you on as a guest. They requested your email they will be contacting you.”
“Please tell me you are joking,” Mason responded.
“No I’m serious,” the staffer replied. “I asked twice to make sure I heard her correctly.”
3. The impeachment report says many times she was in Montgomery, Mason would park her minivan in the First Lady’s reserved spot at the Capitol and go to an elevator ascending directly to the governor’s office — an elevator installed for Gov. George Wallace after he was shot.
4. According to testimony included in the report’s exhibits, Pastor Gil McKee at First Baptist Tuscaloosa, attended by both the Bentleys and the Masons, delivered an entire sermon aimed at the state’s First Affair.
“Pastor McKee at First Baptist Tuscaloosa gave a big sermon, and it was pretty obvious that it was targeted at Rebekah and Jon and Gov. Bentley,” a Dianne Bentley staffer told the impeachment committee’s special counsel under oath. “And the governor was really upset about it, but Pastor McKee kind of talked to Jon Mason about it. But then ultimately he ended up calling all four of them into the office, or three of them with Mrs. Bentley to sit down and just kind of say, ‘OK, is this affair happening’ and made everybody admit to the fact that they knew.
“And then he asked the governor to no longer be a member of the church. Asked the Masons no longer to attend the church, and removed the governor from his position as deacon and Sunday school teacher.”
The report also says two of the Bentleys’ sons traveled to Rebekah Mason’s parents’ home in an effort to draft their help in ending the affair.
Neither of those interventions, nor the many others recounted in the report, had any effect.
5. Gov. Bentley’s texting turmoil happened in large part because he didn’t know his iPhone text messages were synced to an iPad he had given the First Lady’s staff. The iPad was a gift from Golden Dragon Copper, a tubing company that opened a facility in Wilcox County under Bentley’s tenure.
6. The Former First Lady — or Dianne “Badass” Bentley, as my wife affectionately calls her — didn’t let Rebekah Mason get ahead of her:
“One of the conversations that Mrs. Bentley overheard but did not record,” Dianne Bentley’s former executive assistant testified, “… was the governor telling Rebekah Mason that the reason that he was building the second beach house was for her, so he would never have to be away from her.”
Dianne Bentley’s solution? “[That’s why] Mrs. Bentley sold it immediately when she got it in the divorce.” If you can’t beat ‘em, sell their beach house.
7. Group text messages between top Bentley staffers including Mason many times bordered on inappropriate. Staffers — particularly top aide Zach Lee — were fond of sharing photos of State Auditor Jim Zeigler with text like “Night Night!” (a photo of Zeigler’s head bowed) and “I don’t always poopy in my pants, but when I do, it’s Robert Bentley’s fault.”
In another text, in reaction to the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Lee sent a photo of a man bowing his head, with the caption “gee willikers.”
8. Another text message to Gov. Bentley released as part of the Sharman report seems like a very random offer, even when read in context with the messages around it. “Governor,” wrote Randy Wilhelm, a top Montgomery politico, “do you have 10 minutes on Wednesday when I can introduce you to my client who wants to buy Tutwiler (prison) for $50 million?” We don’t know whether the governor took him up on that offer, but I’d certainly like to get that introduction.
9. The handwritten notes of Ray Lewis, Bentley’s longtime body man, also contain interesting claims. In one note written in 2015, Lewis said then-Gov. Bentley dropped an interesting nugget about then-President Barack Obama:
“[The governor] went on to say that the president is being accused of having a girlfriend,” Lewis wrote, “and that people close to him call her his ‘whisper.’” Sounds more like projection than a legitimate claim on the part of the disgraced governor, if you ask me.
10. There could be much more to come — someday. According to the report, Dianne Bentley kept a diary of the administration containing even more information about the governor and his actions. “[Dianne Bentley] kept journals of every, every single day she served as First Lady.” There’s a book I’d pay good money to read.
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