How does the governor's adamant denial of a sexual relationship with his senior political advisor coincide with audio recordings of their conversations?
Despite Damning Evidence, Gov. Bentley and Rebekah Mason Refute Allegations of Misconduct
BY JUANI HOPWOOD
When Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley fired Spencer Collier, former State of Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) secretary, Collier immediately called a press conference to confirm long-whispered rumors of the governor’s adultery and other unethical actions.
At this press conference on Wednesday, March 23, Collier alleged that not only did Gov. Bentley, 73, have an affair with senior political advisor Rebekah Caldwell Mason, but also that the governor misappropriated funds and told him to lie to investigators looking into House Speaker Mike Hubbard. Collier also accused Mason of enacting undue influence over the governor’s policies.
“Rebekah Mason was not elected by anyone, and the level of influence that she is wielding makes her the de facto governor,” Collier said. He also implied that Mason was pulling strings to demand that he lie to the Attorney General about Hubbard, heavily involved in ALEA and “deeply, deeply involved” in the governor’s mandate to close dozens of driver’s license offices statewide. “It became apparent to me that Rebekah Mason has wielded a level of influence over both the governor and state government that I have never seen in all my years of public service.”
“Rebekah Mason was not elected by anyone, and the level of influence that she is wielding makes her the de facto governor,” – Spencer Collier, former ALEA secretary
“I saw the first sign of change in Gov. Robert Bentley in August of 2014,” a visibly shaken Collier said. “I became aware of a text message that was sent from Mrs. Rebekah Mason to Gov. Bentley. The text message was accidentally intercepted by Gov. Bentley’s body man [Stan Stabler] and on the cell phone there was a text that was sexual in nature.”
“I told Gov. Bentley [on August 5, 2014] that I loved him like a father and there was nothing I wouldn’t do for him. Except lie to a grand jury,” Collier said. Referring to a now-released audio recording of a conversation between the governor and Mason, Collier continued, “I made Gov. Bentley aware of the recording that I heard. I told Gov. Bentley there was no need to try and explain it for anything other than it was. It was very obvious that it was sexual in nature. Gov. Bentley simply hung his head and asked for advice and how to get out of it.”
To date, two recordings exist of the then-married governor talking with Mason – who is also married and has three children. One recording was captured in 2014 by Gov. Bentley’s former wife, Dianne. She left her phone behind in the couple’s beach house, anticipating a conversation between the governor and Mason.
On this recording, Gov. Bentley is heard to say: “. . . when I stand behind you and I put arms around you and I put my hands onto your breasts and I put my head into your neck and pull you real close, hey I love that too, putting my hands under you . . . If we’re gonna do what we did the other day, we’re gonna have to start locking the door.”
The full recording Dianne Bentley took of Gov. Bentley’s romantic phone conversation and FaceTime call with Mason is below:
“The recordings that were referred to by Spencer Collier in his press conference were actually made two years ago. Since that time, I’ve apologized to members of my family, to Mrs. Mason and her family, and I apologized to them for any conversations or behavior that was inappropriate,” Governor Bentley said at a press conference in Montgomery held a few hours after Collier’s statements on Wednesday, March 23. When asked specifically about this section of the recording at the press conference on Wednesday, Gov. Bentley said, “What I’m saying is that there was no sexual activity.”
When another reporter asked why the governor would make those statements if he and Mason were not involved in a physical relationship, Gov. Bentley responded, “The people of Alabama have twice elected me. And I have been totally honest with the people of Alabama and I am being honest today . . . I am just asking those that have been involved, including the people of this state, to forgive me.”
Dianne Bentley filed for divorce in August 2015; in the court documents, the Bentleys’ 50-year marriage is described as having “suffered an irretrievable breakdown.”
Reactions and Explanations:
“I accept full responsibility,” Gov. Bentley stated in a press conference on Wednesday. “I want everyone to know, though, that I have never had a physical affair with Mrs. Mason. 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. And at no time have I ever used the resources of my office to facilitate a relationship of any type.”
Watch the full press conference below:
In response to Collier’s allegations, Rebekah Mason made the following statement: “There’s no way that man would have said what he did today about another man. He only said what he said about my professional abilities because I am a woman. His comments were clear, demonstrated gender bias…”
Before Gov. Bentley took the podium on Wednesday, newly appointed ALEA Secretary Stan Stabler said allegations that he had intercepted the smoking gun sexually explicit text message were “completely false and without merit.” Stabler added, “However, consistent with the agency policy, ALEA does not discuss pending or ongoing investigations or special inquiries.”
Attorney General Luther Strange also released a short statement assuring the public “that the Attorney General’s office takes very seriously any allegations involving potential criminal misconduct. My office has a strong record of probing illegal activity in this state and we will continue to do our job.”
A federal investigation into Bentley’s office is already underway. The governor’s press secretary, however, said the office has “no information about any investigation.”
Juani Hopwood is online editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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