Robert Bentley scandal making national headlines amid new revelations

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Gov. Robert Bentley has already dominated news in Alabama, where during the spring details of his alleged affair with former adviser and staffer Rebekah Mason and the ongoing impeachment proceedings surrounding it seemed to dominate the news cycle.

But now the governor’s press problem has gotten worse still, as GQ writer Jason Zengerle published a scathing article on the matter, bringing national attention to Bentley’s peccadilloes.

The story begins with the story of how former First Lady Dianne Bentley surreptitiously recorded her husband at their beach house in Gulf Shores, capturing illicit and somewhat awkward chatter between Bentley and his extramarital partner Mason, and it doesn’t ease up from there.

Reads one knife-twisting passage:

At first, the governor made idle chitchat, but the conversation soon grew intimate, slipping as it did into the cringe-patois of a randy senior citizen. “I love you,” he told the person on the other end. “When I stand behind you and I put my arms around you, and I put my hands on your breasts, and I put my hands on you and pull you in real close, hey, I love that, too.” Robert went on in this vein for nearly 30 minutes. All the while, Dianne’s iPhone quietly recorded—filling itself with lusty incriminations that eventually would tornado through Alabama and spiral into the craziest political scandal in the country. “Rebekah, I just, I miss you,” he said wistfully at one point. “I worry about loving you so much.”

The article, while it focuses on salacious revelations like the above, also puts Bentley in his Alabamian context.

“Every governor exists in a perpetually reinforcing bubble of self-regard. But in Alabama, delusions of grandeur can inflate to Mobutu-like proportions,” Zengerle writes. The article also regales readers with the tale of Mason’s ascension within the Bentley administration.

After nearly three years on the periphery of the governor’s inner circle, Mason made her move for greater influence in late 2013. According to a person close to her at that time, she thought the governor was being ill-served by his other advisers. Bentley’s approval numbers were high, but Mason, who had recently begun working for his re-election campaign, believed that he’d squandered his first term and that he needed to be more aggressive. Before long, she was functioning as Bentley’s top adviser. “He didn’t have a voice,” one friend of Mason’s told me, “until she helped him find it.”

 And then, as we all are familiar with by now, things took another turn.
… Bentley—an awkward man with a heart-rending comb-over who’d married young and come late to his lofty position—was unaccustomed to female attention. And foolishly susceptible to it. When his advisers would caution him about pushing for things the legislature wouldn’t support, like a teacher pay raise, Mason would counter in a syrupy voice, “But you’re the governor. People love you.”

Of course, it’s impossible to know when Bentley and Mason’s relationship became more than just professional. (Neither Bentley nor Mason responded to GQ’s interview requests. Bentley has apologized for making “inappropriate remarks” to Mason, and both have denied having a “physical affair.”) But their closeness had become noticeable and, to those around the governor, increasingly troubling.

Beyond a vivid recounting of the Bentley affair, so to speak, the article also contains new revelations that are of note to Alabama pol watchers.
For instance, this hot take from a former Bentley loyalist: “When she became his top political adviser, it was like the Hindenburg came down and fell on the Titanic as the Titanic hit the iceberg. I was watching a woman who didn’t know how a bill becomes a law running the state of Alabama.”
To boot, the story revealed new details about Bentley’s fondness for the iPhone’s red rose emoji, financial difficulties in Mason’s family life that more or less led to her appointment with the Bentley administration in the first place, and drama over Bentley’s wife and children, who nearly boycotted the governor’s second inauguration and, cruelly, ended up seated just behind Mason’s family.
Read the full piece here.
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