2 years ago

The untold story of how the secret Bentley-Mason affair recordings went public

As I drove up U.S. Highway 280, swerving in and out of traffic and making my way from suburban Birmingham toward the city’s center, I thought about the events of the past year that had led up to this moment.

For many months the hottest rumor in Alabama politics was that Governor Robert Bentley had engaged in a long-running extramarital affair with his senior political advisor Rebekah Mason, a married mother of three. At first the idea seemed so absurd I dismissed it as politically motivated nonsense. Now, here I was, driving toward an obscure Birmingham gas station to obtain the indisputable evidence that it was all true.

For the week prior to this midnight meeting, I had been in discussions with confidential sources who claimed to be in possession of secret audio recordings of Governor Bentley and Mrs. Mason. The recordings, I was told, had been made by Governor Bentley’s then-wife, Dianne, and contained explicit details of the Bentley-Mason affair. The sources were wary of their identities being revealed, and one of the sources expressed concerns about the Bentleys’ grandchildren having to endure such embarrassment.

But they agreed on three key points:

Number one, that Robert Julian Bentley — the husband, father, church deacon, dermatologist and now governor — had allowed his once sterling character to be corroded by power.

Number two, that Rebekah Caldwell Mason — the local TV news anchor, small-time communications consultant and now senior advisor to the governor — had willfully destroyed the Bentleys’ marriage of 50 years while simultaneously consolidating near-full control of the executive branch of Alabama’s state government.

And number three, that the evidence they held could spark a seismic event in Alabama politics and bring the Bentley-Mason house of cards crumbling down.

In spite of their reservations about releasing the recordings, it was Governor Bentley’s arrogance, one of the sources said, that was too much for them to endure. While Mrs. Bentley struggled to understand what all had happened and mourned what she felt like was catastrophic damage to her “Christian witness,” her former husband continued to give his mistress unfettered access to every part of his life.

As he walked down the center aisle of the Old House Chamber after delivering the State of the State address, Mrs. Mason was by his side. When he was photographed at a swanky Washington, D.C., gala typically reserved for only governors and first ladies, she was his date. And when any meeting in the Capitol was concluded, she was always the last one left in the room with him.

The frustration and anger simmered for months, but it was now boiling over.

I pulled behind the gas station to find a thumb drive exactly where I was told it would be.

I jumped back in the car and rushed home, plugged the drive into my computer, opened the file, and within a few minutes I knew Governor Bentley’s legacy would forever be defined by what I was hearing.

Rebekah, I just, I miss you. I wish I was with you right now… You know, I worry about sometimes I love you so much, I worry about loving you so much… You’d kiss me? I love that. You know I do love that. You know what? 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.

I cringed throughout the roughly 45-minutes of conversations between the two lovers, but also felt a strange sense of sadness about what had happened and what was surely to come. Families would never be the same. The Bentley and Mason children would endure undeserved ridicule. And the state would weather yet another torrent of embarrassing headlines.

I texted Rebekah Mason, “I know it’s late, but we may need to talk tonight.”


My relationship with Mrs. Mason had been up and down over the last several years.

In 2012, Mason, who was at the time the administration’s communications director, sought my advice on the administration’s plans to bolster its online presence. We met for lunch in Birmingham and I offered some thoughts on what later became the Governor’s NewsRoom.

In early 2014, Mason again asked for my thoughts on language in the Governor’s State of the State address, which she hoped would put to bed rumors that he was planning to expand Medicaid after getting re-elected.

But several months later we had a falling out when Yellowhammer published a story pointing out that they were once again refusing to say the governor would not expand Medicaid “under any scenario.”

Tensions rose again in 2015 when Yellowhammer ran a series of stories on Governor Bentley’s decision to go back on his campaign promise to not raise taxes, capped off by an April Fools headline declaring, “Bentley makes it official, switches to Democratic Party,” which caused the phone lines in the Capitol to melt down.

But Mrs. Mason expressed appreciation last year when Yellowhammer criticized other media outlets for publishing tabloid-style stories on the affair rumors, which at the time were unsubstantiated. I told her at the time that I thought the coverage by other outlets had been unethical. I still believe it was.

I decided I was not going to drop the story on the recordings until I had given her a chance to comment.

But I did not hear back until the following morning.


Last fall, I called Governor Bentley on his cell phone on a Saturday afternoon.

I know it was a Saturday because we were both watching college football — me at my suburban Birmingham home, him at the Governor’s Mansion in Montgomery. He was sick and had almost completely lost his voice, but was in good spirits, in spite of the controversy swirling around him.

I told him I was not calling about anything in particular, but just wanted to tell him I had been praying for him and his family.

We spoke for about 10 minutes, but it was not until we got off the phone that I had a revelation.

While the rest of Alabama was engulfed in a typical college football weekend and likely surrounded by friends and family, the state’s governor was home alone, estranged from his family and an outcast in his own party.

It would be several months before more details of his moral and ethical failures would go public, but there was already a very real sense that he was on an island — that all he had left was the office he holds and that he would not give it up voluntarily and relegate himself to an early retirement of obscurity.


The morning after I obtained the audio recordings I spoke on the phone with Rebekah Mason for almost an hour. It was a roller-coaster conversation that made it abundantly clear that, in spite of Mrs. Mason’s communications background and the obvious dangers of carrying on an affair with the governor, there had not been much thought given to what they would say if they were ever caught red-handed.

She wanted to hear the recordings. I told her that was not possible.

Then came the excuses.

Sometimes when you’re a woman working in politics, she said, you have to just let inappropriate comments roll off of you like water off a duck’s back.

I stopped her from continuing and told her the recordings did not support that narrative. I could feel her anxiety growing.

“What should I do?” She asked.

My advice was very simple: Tell the truth.

It became clear that she was deeply conflicted. She did not want her children to hear what must be on the recordings. She did not want to be a front page headline and the butt of every joke in Montgomery, like Goat Hill’s version of Monica Lewinksy. But she also did not want to give up just yet. Her unlikely rise from small town television anchor to the most powerful political operative in the state had not come easy, and she was not convinced the ride was over.

She asked for an hour to think. I agreed.

She texted me several times asking for more details about the recordings. She said she and the governor were meeting about what to do.

One hour turned into several hours, and I texted her one last time saying I could not wait any longer to run the story, even though I wanted to include a comment from her or the governor.


I hit “publish,” closed my computer and sat back in my chair.

My phone buzzed a few minutes later. It was Mrs. Mason.

“I’m sorry,” she texted.

The story was international news within the hour.


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10 hours ago

Alabama wins private property rights case against Obama-era regulations

In a victory for private property rights this week, the federal government agreed to reconsider rules adopted during the Obama-era that unreasonably restrict the freedom of Americans to use their land.

“We are encouraged that the Trump administration has agreed to revisit these rules, which threaten property owners’ rights to use any land that the federal government could dream that an endangered species might ever inhabit,” Alabama Attorney General Marshall said in a statement.

Why this matters: Under these rules, unelected federal bureaucrats could designate a piece of private property as “critical habitat” for an endangered species even if the land doesn’t contain that particular species and, moreover, doesn’t even contain some of the features needed to support that species. Use of the land would then be severely limited. 


The details:

— The state filed a lawsuit, Alabama v. National Marine Fisheries Service, in November of 2016 challenging the rules, calling them “an unlawful federal overreach.”

— Nearly 20 other states joined the lawsuit, along with four large trade associations.

— The settlement forces federal agencies to submit revised rules for public review within 60 days and retains our freedom to file another lawsuit if their new rules are as excessive as the old ones.

@jpepperbryars is the editor of Yellowhammer News and the author of American Warfighter

10 hours ago

Jeff Sessions is right to sue California for ignoring federal immigration laws

America may be a country of immigrants, but it’s also a country of laws. No one is exempt from those laws regardless of what some local officials in sanctuary cities may think.

As you may have seen on the news recently, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently announced a lawsuit against the State of California for failure to completely cooperate with federal immigration enforcement officers.  I stand with AG Sessions’ decision.

From the mayors and local politicians disregarding federal immigration law to the illegal immigrants they are prioritizing over American citizens, it’s about time we hold these lawless individuals accountable.


The “leaders” in these cities are violating their oath of office and the Constitution.  They should be immediately removed from their positions and the illegal immigrants they are protecting should be deported. Period.

I agree with President Trump that we need to strengthen our borders.  We should build the wall and we should continue to support law enforcement’s crackdown on violent foreign gangs like MS-13.

These efforts mean nothing though if illegal immigrants and criminals can continue to seek refuge in some of our country’s largest cities.

It boils down to fairness, safety and what it means to be a sovereign nation.

A country without borders is hardly a country at all. I’m fed up with seeing the tax dollars from hard-working families across East Alabama go to cities who snub their nose at the very ideals that make America great.  Congress should withhold funding from sanctuary cities that refuse to uphold federal law.

President Trump has proven his tough stance on illegal immigration is much more than just campaign rhetoric. He has already done so much to curtail our illegal immigration crisis but he can’t do it alone.

Elected officials – from the state and local level to Members of Congress – must do their part.

And if they refuse, then they aren’t fit for public service.

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers is a Republican from Saks.

(Image:U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement/Flickr)

11 hours ago

WATCH: Cam Newton’s leadership message resonates with Boy Scouts

When Cam Newton speaks, people listen.

The Carolina Panthers quarterback had the full attention of the audience at the 11th annual American Values Luncheon.

Boy Scouts were among attendees that filled the meeting room at the North Exhibition Hall of the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.


Auburn head football coach Gus Malzahn joined Newton during a question and answer session. Famous for leading the Auburn Tigers to the 2010 National Championship under Malzahn’s leadership, Newton’s talk followed in the tradition of several other football greats, including Nick Saban, Shaquille O’Neal and Bo Jackson.

Dr. James Andrews, Dr. Jesse Lewis Sr. and Jimmy Rane were honored at the luncheon for their contributions to the community.

Newton shared his life experiences and lessons learned.

(Courtesy Alabama News Center)

12 hours ago

Celtic Pride! Joel Blankenship shares his Irish roots with The Ford Faction

Joel Blankenship makes his weekly return to The Ford Faction to talk the St. Patrick’s Day parade held in Birmingham and what the holiday means to him.  Joel mentions the law that can be passed to put Police K9’s in schools to help sniff out guns or drugs.  He provides feedback on what this could mean for schools and how it will benefit the need for police K9’s.

Subscribe to the Yellowhammer Radio Presents The Ford Faction podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.

13 hours ago

VIDEO: Alabama Rep. Roby thanks Air Force secretary for decision to bring F-35s to Montgomery

U.S. Representative Martha Roby participated in a defense appropriations subcommittee hearing this week where she expressed her appreciation to Secretary Heather Wilson for the Air Force’s decision to base F-35 Joint Strike Fighters at Dannelly Field in Montgomery.

Roby also discussed other military-related programs in Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District, including helicopter training at Fort Rucker near Enterprise and the professional education programs at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery.

(Image: Representative Martha Roby/YouTube)