Friday mornings are generally quiet at my house but this morning over my coffee I was greeted by a breaking news alert from AL.Com.
The headline practically shouted “Smoking gun.”
John Archibald had written, “Gov. Robert Bentley, Rebekah Mason flew to Vegas, attended Celine Dion show.” Wow! I clicked the article, much like I’d assume most people did, anticipating this would be news that broke the case wide open. Only a few sentences in, I realized I was duped by yet another clickbait headline where the substance of the story was a yawn-fest.
This particular trip in question wasn’t simply a holiday getaway between Mason and Bentley, rather it was a trip to attend the Republican Governors Association Annual Conference. Mason wasn’t the only person to accompany the governor — two other staffers joined as well. The headline could have read, “Gov. Robert Bentley, Jon Barganier flew to Vegas, attended Celine Dion show.”
Elected officials traveling with staff to conferences is not news. Now it would possibly be news if during the trip the two had a hot date to the concert, but the governor sprang for tickets for all the accompanying staff. I’m going out on a limb here, but if the governor and Mason wanted privacy and a romantic evening they probably wouldn’t have brought along Communications Director Jennifer Ardis and Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Jon Barganier.
The story itself is more of the same, with former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency chief Spencer Collier delivering another riveting set of accusations that Bentley tried to shake his security detail, an accusation that the governors office denied in a statement released after the story “broke.”
There’s been credible and even wowing news related to the Mason/Bentley relationship, but this particular piece along with others recently seem to be a “which publication can garner the most clicks” contest based on an otherwise personal situation. Frankly, I don’t know if the public needs any more evidence of an inappropriate relationship than what is out already there, but we certainly don’t need to make something out of nothing for the sake of web traffic.
I’ve worked for a number of elected officials, most recently a member of Congress who was a dentist. While attending a dental conference in Nashville several years ago myself, my infant daughter and two other staffers went to a concert at the Ryman with the Congressman. It would be laughable to make that conference and concert into something more. Likewise, it’s laughable to make the Vegas and Celine concert into something more.
As I said before, beyond the lingering questions and the need for the appropriate authorities to conduct their independent investigations to determine whether or not any laws were broken, I’m not sure how much more information the public needs to know. Regardless of the relationship she had with the governor, clearly Mason did work within the administration, was a trusted adviser, and would be included on this and other trips. Duh.