When we last checked in on Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, the “family values” Republican was facing accusations from the former head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency about an alleged extra-marital affair. The officer 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 top political aide, but he denied having a “physical relationship” with her.
An audio recording surfaced soon after in which Bentley is overheard describing what sounded like a “physical relationship” with his staffer.
A week later, the questions are only growing louder; the list of Republicans calling for Bob Bentley’s resignation is growing longer; and the governor’s future is looking bleaker.
Gov. Robert Bentley sidestepped questions about an alleged affair with senior political adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason during a visit Monday to a rural health center in Centreville – his first public appearance since sexually explicit recordings of the governor talking to Mason were made public last week.
If he’s come up with a defense or any new talking points, the governor kept them to himself. “We have made our statement last week and that’s all we’re going to say about that,” he said.
But there is no scenario in which Bentley’s odd, literally unbelievable statement from last week makes his scandal go away. On the contrary, today’s headlines make clear this controversy goes well beyond an inappropriate workplace romance.
* A local NBC affiliate reported that State Auditor Jim Zeilger is leading an Ethics Commission review of Bentley’s conduct, and he believes the matter may lead to possible criminal charges.
* No one seems able to explain how Bentley’s top political staffer, his alleged mistress, is paid.
* The Alabama Political Reporter published a piece alleging that the governor “pressured law enforcement officers to use federal and state resources to target” critics of his extra-marital relationship.
* Bentley has even apparently been kicked out of his church.
The Birmingham News’ John Archibald published a brutal column today noting that Alabama’s state government is simply unraveling: the governor is mired in scandal; the lieutenant governor is widely seen as “unfit to serve”; the state House Speaker is currently awaiting trial on 23 felony counts; and the state Supreme Court’s chief justice is Roy Moore, whose crackpot views have already forced his ouster once, and who can hardly be counted on to adjudicate responsibly going forward.
“This is not a war,” Archibald concluded. “It’s a massacre, and annihilation. The very people Alabama elected to manage the state and help it to prosper are the ones who burned our village to the ground and salted the fields.”
Look for more on this on tonight’s show.