Because, inevitably, it does get worse.
This doesn’t even refer to the relationship itself, which short of crimes being committed, is between the individuals, their families and their God. I’m talking about the horrible bumbling and fumbling of the facts and scandal itself.
Mason’s husband, Jon Mason, wrote in a statement posted to his Facebook page on March 28, “I wanted to share that I long ago resolved the personal issue playing out now for everyone this week. Please continue to support families, the governor, and our state with prayers as we all move forward.”
The audio recordings of Bentley speaking to Mason, much to the dismay of those who heard or read the transcripts, left little question that they had more than an emotional affair. A few too many references to touching, kissing, holding, etc. for it to be a platonic situation.
Here’s my thoughts on the Top 5 public relations/crisis communication mistakes, in no particular order because they’re just all that bad:
- Not getting ahead of the scandal: With the known existence of audio tapes (that were two years old), ongoing rumors, and the number of individuals with first-hand knowledge, it would seem that the Governor and Mason had plenty of time to formulate a plan for when (not if) the relationship came to light. Only the parties involved know when it started though the Governor says he’s loved her for years in one of the audio recordings exclusively provided to YH News.
- Mason’s employment: I can’t for the life of me understand why Mason did not resign before the story broke and insisted on continuing to travel with the Governor one-on-one after the initial allegations surfaced during the Bentley divorce. The latest news broke this week, by the Montgomery Advertiser, that the Governor took Mason to a White House dinner in February of this year. This would be after his divorce, after her husband knew about the “inappropriate relationship.” When she finally did resign her statement was spot on leaving the question why didn’t she just do that sooner?
- The Governor’s press conference: I thought the Anthony Wiener press conference or maybe the Mark Sanford press conference would go down as the worst in political history in terms of unprepared, not well thought out statements but then Bentley opened his mouth. Where he made multiple statements that still boggle the mind such as, “I accept full responsibility. I want everyone to know though that I have never had a physical affair with Mrs. Mason.” (Despite describing touching her on the recorded call.) He went on to explain what he was apologizing for, “I’m apologizing for the things that I’ve said.” Umm. What? My favorite statement of the whole thing, “I love many members members of my staff. In fact all of the members of my staff…do I love …some more than others, absolutely.”
- Mason’s horrible statement: Following the Governor’s train wreck of a press conference, which you can watch below. Mason sent out a horrible, horrible statement citing gender bias as the reason for the reason she was being targeted. I planned to write a post about at that time but Katherine Robertson, from API beat me to it and nailed it. Robertson said, “Knowing the evidence that was now available to the public, Mrs. Mason did not deny anything, but in a desperate diversion, tried to claim that her gender was to blame for her present predicament.” She went on to say, “The statement released yesterday will not be soon forgotten by women who have actually struggled with inequitable treatment in their professions. Rather than expressing remorse, which the public would likely sympathize with, Mrs. Mason chose to cry wolf and play the gender card. As a result, whatever gender bias previously existed in Montgomery has just been dialed up a notch.” Because Mason called gender bias so early on and so haphazardly she couldn’t even point to it when it was occurring, as it just did with the misleading headline about her attending a concert with other staffers in Vegas.
- Denying the nature of the relationship: This one is the strangest. The Governor apologized for what was recorded. Mason dodged the relationship discussions all together. The recording and witness statements are pretty convincing yet there’s still an effort to stonewall. During the press conference the Governor as asked directly if his relationship with Mason was romantic and he ignored the question. It makes no sense to give a half apology. To accept responsibility for talking about physical acts but not the acts themselves. Rather than saying “I’m not going to address specifics of the relationship.” why say “There was no physical” relationship? I’m reminded of the old saying “The first rule of thumb when you find yourself in a hole is stop digging.” Bentley and Mason just keep digging and it’s made this story go from one news cycle to the next and next and next. It has reporters and bloggers alike on a hunt to unearth additional evidence and information to supplement what’s been said so far.
There are currently a number of things happening surrounding this situation from impeachment discussions to recall laws being considered.
I don’t expect the news to stop covering every little detail that is discovered. I don’t believe the calls for resignation will stop growing. I’m just hoping that the Governor and Mrs. Mason can get all their ducks in a row and facilitate this side show ending ASAP.
Here you can find a list of those who have called on the Governor to resign so far.