Alabama’s ‘family values’ governor mired in sex scandal

Updated
The Rachel Maddow Show, 3/23/16, 10:13 PM ET

Governor's affair exposed in audio recording of sexy phone call

John Archibald, columnist for the Birmingham News, talks with Rachel Maddow about the decision to publish the audio of Alabama Governor Robert Bentley’s phone sex talk with his mistress, and the likelihood that Bentley will have to step down from office.
While running for governor in 2010, Alabama’s Robert Bentley emphasized his “family values” credentials. The Republican candidate not only ran ads featuring his wife and family, but Bentley also said he believes so strongly in the sanctity of traditional marriage that as far as he’s concerned, when same-sex couples wed, their marriages should be dismissed as “social experiments.”
 
Given what we learned yesterday, the GOP governor probably shouldn’t have made his family such a centerpiece of his platform.
Alabama’s Sunday school-teaching governor was accused by his former top cop on Wednesday of breaking the Seventh Commandment – thou shalt not commit adultery.
 
Spencer Collier claims he was fired from his post as head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency on Tuesday because he refused to cover up Gov. Robert Bentley’s alleged affair with top political adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason.
If you missed Rachel’s coverage of this story last night, the clip is worth watching, because while we’re seen plenty of politicians get caught in sex scandals, this one’s a doozy.
 
Last fall, when the governor and his wife split after 50 years of marriage, there were widespread rumors about Bentley having had an affair, but yesterday the chatter became a legitimate story after Collier, up until recently Alabama’s top cop, held a press conference to say he’d been fired for failing to go along with a scheme to hide the governor’s personal misdeeds.
 
Bentley held a strange press conference soon after to apologize – though it was unclear to whom he was apologizing and for what. The governor acknowledged his role in inappropriate communications with his aide, but the conservative Republican insisted he’s never had a “physical relationship” with his top aide.
 
That dubious claim prompted the Birmingham News to release an audio recording of Bentley having a private conversation with Rebekah Caldwell Mason in which he seems to describe quite a bit of their romantic, physical interactions.
 
Whenever stories like these come up, there’s a worthwhile debate about the line between politicians’ public and private lives, and the degree to which the latter deserves public scrutiny. And if the Bentley scandal were simply about personal misdeeds and the break-up of his marriage, it’d be easy to make the case that it would be no one’s business except those directly involved.
 
But that’s not the case here. For one thing, there’s the brazen hypocrisy of a Republican running for governor on a family-values platform, and then allegedly having relations with a member of his staff.
 
For another, there are unresolved questions about use of public resources – it seems no one is able to say who actually pays political adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason – and whether the governor used public funds to facilitate and/or cover up his relationship with his aide.

As for what’s next, the Birmingham News’ John Archibald told Rachel on the show last night that Bentley’s career as governor “cannot last.” Archibald added, “He is done. There’s no way he can survive this. If he’s not indicted, if he’s not forced to resign, then he will end his career as an incredible political joke. His term as a useful governor is over.”

Alabama and Scandals

Alabama's 'family values' governor mired in sex scandal

Updated