1 year ago

Yellowhammer exclusive: Bentley gives scoop on social media activity, leaves door open for 2020 US Senate run

Former Alabama Governor Robert J. Bentley is back.

This summer, Twitter and Facebook accounts representing the former Alabama governor were reactivated to coincide with the unveiling of Bentley for Alabama.

This new site, launched on Memorial Day, examines Bentley’s time serving as Alabama’s 53rd governor and provides contemporary updates on his life since leaving office.

The platform also makes available to the general public archived digital content from the Bentley Administration and both of his gubernatorial campaigns.

“Governor Bentley was Alabama’s first governor to serve during the rise in popularity of digital mediums and social media platforms,” the site notes, before outlining the litany of online resources that it provides.

In an interview with Yellowhammer News, Bentley discussed his new project, his post-public life and even left the door open on a 2020 U.S. Senate run.


Transcript as follows:

YELLOWHAMMER NEWS: What would you like people to know about Bentley for Alabama and what’s the goal of this new endeavor?

BENTLEY: Bentley for Alabama is really a continuation of the work we began during my Administration. The goals and initiatives of all the people who worked so hard in our Administration are important and matter to our people, such as job creation, Pre-K growth and even the need to build new prisons. We were inspired by President George W. Bush, and the philanthropic work he continues to do after leaving office. The Bush Administration makes available its digital resources from his time in office.

I love history, and we felt that is was important to preserve the work we did, and the recording of that work. It just so happens now that’s all in a digital format where it can be accessed by anyone. We wanted to make it easily available online for anyone.

YELLOWHAMMER NEWS: Should we expect frequent social media posts from you?

BENTLEY: Absolutely! Social media really exploded during our administration, and we found it to be very effective when it came to communication with both the media and the people of our state. The Internet can be dark and dirty, but it can be used for good. I love staying in touch with what people are thinking and talking about, social media is a great way to do that.

YELLOWHAMMER NEWS:  What are you most proud of from your tenure as governor?

BENTLEY: Without a doubt, lowering unemployment and changing the state’s jobs strategy. We were over 10 percent unemployment when I became governor, and we hit full employment when I left office. It’s gratifying to see the strategy we put into place, Accelerate Alabama, net so many good jobs. Especially in Wilcox County and other small towns that were hurting. I always believe if you educate people and give them an opportunity to succeed in a good job, they’ll be fine. I believe we are helping do that by expanding Pre-K, and by creating jobs. I’m also proud of how our administration responded and rebuilt after the 2011 tornadoes.

YELLOWHAMMER NEWS: How has the adjustment back to private life been?

BENTLEY: It was a little awkward at first, sometimes you feel like a baby giraffe learning to walk, especially driving around town when you really haven’t driven much in seven years. I had a few health issues, and I needed some time just to rest and get re-acclimated. I actually enjoy doing ordinary things like going to Winn Dixie to buy groceries. I’ll see folks and they still want to ask me how I’m doing, tell me they appreciate my time as governor and get their picture made with me. That’s always sweet and very humbling.

I opened a new medical practice June of 2017. I started on that a few days after coming home, and it has been an absolutely blessing. We are busier that I could have ever imagined.  The practice is a true miracle, and God gets the glory for every bit of that. My medical practice staff is top-notch and like family to me. I’m a creature of habit, so I just settled back into my old routines at my house. I love to get out and cut grass when I have some free time. But people have been so kind and supportive and I can’t thank them enough.

YELLOWHAMMER NEWS: Would you consider a return to public office? Maybe the U.S. Senate in 2020?

BENTLEY: I love serving the people of this state. Serving as governor was the greatest honor of my life. I have a heart for our people and I believe we are all called to serve one another in some capacity. I found public service was a way to do that. I believe what is missing in public service today is loving the people that you serve and wanting to help those who need help, especially those who are less fortunate and really have nothing. If God shows me a new avenue where I can do that, I’ll do it.

YELLOWHAMMER NEWS: How do you want people to remember Robert Bentley?

BENTLEY: I just want people to know how much I truly care about them. I love being a physician and taking care of patients. Being governor opened up a whole new world to me, and it changed how I see people. Especially after the tornadoes. When you go through something like that, you realize hurt and suffering are no respecters of people.

We’re all equals and that’s how I see the people of Alabama. White Republican governors in their 70’s usually don’t push to fund Medicaid for the disabled, elderly or poor, much less try to make people care about building a new women’s prison where female inmates were once subjected to humiliation, shame and abuse. And politically speaking, doing that probably hurt me. But I always tried to put the people first. And I’m proud of that.

YELLOWHAMMER NEWS: Is there anything else that you want our readers to know?

BENTLEY: I would just thank them again for allowing me to serve as their governor. In this campaign season, just remember public service is tough, and credit goes to anyone who is willing to step in the arena. I never intended to be a caretaker governor. If you want to be a public servant and see change, be ready to get bloodied. As a voter, look for a candidate who cares about people, not just one who panders

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

11 hours ago

Judge rules Alabama-born ‘ISIS bride’ not an American citizen, has no right to return

Hoda Muthana, who left Hoover in 2014 to join ISIS in Syria, has no right to return to the United States, according to a Thursday ruling by a federal judge.

Muthana has been begging to return to America since at least early this year, claiming she made “a big mistake.”

She has previously called for the killings of Americans on U.S. soil, as well as the assassination of then-President Barack Obama.

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Muthana was 19 years old when she left Alabama and headed to Raqqa, Syria. There, she first married an Australian jihadist named Suhan Rahman, who was reportedly killed later in the town of Kobanî.

After Rahman’s death, Muthana – called “one of Isis’s [sic] most prominent online agitators” as well as one of the most militant – took to social media in a vengeful call for the blood of American citizens to be spilled by radical jihadists living in the country.

“Americans wake up! Men and women altogether. You have much to do while you live under our greatest enemy, enough of your sleeping! Go on drivebys, and spill all of their blood, or rent a big truck and drive all over them. Veterans, Patriots, Memorial, etc day … Kill them,” she once tweeted.

After the death of Rahman, she married a Tunisian fighter, with whom she had her son, Adam. This second husband was soon killed in Mosul, and Muthana briefly married a Syrian fighter last year to complete her own trifecta of jihadist husbands.

It is supposedly in part out of concern for her son that she wants to return to her family in the Yellowhammer State. She also claims to have become de-radicalized over time after seeing the realities in the Middle East.

President Donald Trump’s State Department has maintained that Muthana is not an American citizen, as such has no rights to return to America and therefore would be banned from reentering the country.

On Thursday, approximately nine months after Muthana’s family sued the State Department in federal court, Senior United States District Judge Reggie Walton of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia officially sided with the government.

The judge found that there was sufficient evidence to conclude that Muthana was born in America while her father, who once represented Yemen to the United Nations, still had diplomatic status in the U.S.

As reported by Buzzfeed News, “Federal regulations and international law state that children of foreign diplomats born in the US are not subject to the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees birthright citizenship, because they are born under the jurisdiction of another country.”

Additionally, the judge also ruled that Muthana’s father can not provide financial support to her or her two-year-old without being subject to federal charges of providing material support to terrorism.

A lawyer for Muthana reportedly told Buzzfeed that an appeal is likely.

The ruling came days after NBC News featured the “ISIS bride” in a new exclusive. In that latest report, which was mocked by PJ Media, Muthana asserted that every American of faith must support her return, claiming, “Anyone that believes in God believes that everyone deserves a second chance, no matter how harmful their sins were.”

That report also outlined that a return to live in Hoover was still Muthana’s goal.

“I want my son to be around my family, I want to go to school, I want to have a job and I want to have my own car,” she told NBC.

Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) has previously advocated that Muthana be allowed to return to America.

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) disagreed with Jones’ position, saying, “Look, this is one of many ways that Doug Jones differs from the people – the vast majority of people – in the state of Alabama.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

12 hours ago

Roby presses VA officials on staffing issues at Alabama facilities — ‘My veterans are suffering’

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby (AL-02), a member of the House’s Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, on Thursday participated in a hearing regarding the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection’s failures at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Roby questioned Michael J. Missal — inspector general of the VA — and Dr. Tamara Bonzanto — the assistant secretary for accountability and whistleblower protection of the VA.

In her questioning and remarks, Roby highlighted the importance of whistleblowers in uncovering critical issues at Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System (CAVHCS) and the urgent need for staffing improvements within the VA system.

She specifically pressed the inspector general as to why the system is not seeing any internal change impacting the lives of Alabama’s tremendous veterans.

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Roby asked, “Is there a disconnect between the administration’s view of how the VA is operating and the IG’s reports on the issues, and is the administration doing enough to implement IG recommendations?”

She commented, “This [whistleblower] hearing is important because there are some VA facilities in this country that are working well and serving our veterans well. There are others that are not, and that happens to be the one in my district…There is a tremendous problem with our veterans even having the ability to be seen. …It’s just not getting better. …I continue to be so outraged and frustrated as to why this is not getting better…My veterans are suffering because of it.”

You can watch Roby’s full remarks here.

The southeast Alabama congresswoman has long been a vocal advocate for veterans and improving the VA system.

RELATED: Roby: ‘My name isn’t on the ballot in 2020, but I still have a few fights left in me — The VA remains at the top of my list’

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

14 hours ago

Alabama Policy Institute launches campaign to change state’s ‘dead last’ k-12 ranking

The Alabama Policy Institute (API) on Thursday launched the “#DeadLast Initiative” aimed at focusing elected officials and the public on Alabama’s recent ranking as having the nation’s lowest-ranked public education system.

The initiative includes the launch of DeadLast.org and an online video poking fun at the fact that Alabama is no longer even above Mississippi in its education ranking.

API is not just drawing attention to embarrassing problems — they are proposing tangible solutions.

Chief among the calls-to-action are for Alabama voters to pass Amendment One on the March 2020 primary ballot. The bipartisan proposal would be a historic overhaul of the state’s educational governance structure.

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In addition to outreach to elected officials, API is expected to invest significant time and resources into spreading the message to the public that Alabama must do a better job in educating our children, according to a press release.

“Alabama can no longer say ‘Thank God for Mississippi’,” API president Caleb Crosby said in a statement. “We are letting our children down and not preparing them for a productive life. API is going to do everything in our power to bring about change in the way we educate our children in Alabama – they deserve nothing less.”

API is also advocating for reforms such as the expansion of school choice through charter schools and scholarships; the wise use of tax dollars and not simply increasing spending for the sake of increasing spending; and reformulation of the teacher tenure system so that teacher performance and continual professional development are rewarded more than longevity.

API chief operations officer Carl Jones remarked that it is time to get away from a failing “status quo,” which he said is perfectly represented by the Alabama Education Association (AEA).

“Alabama’s worst in the nation ranking makes clear it’s high pastime we break the status quo in education in Alabama. No one more represents the same old same old as the Alabama Education Association,” Jones stated. “Unions have one goal – get the best deal for their members – that’s it. Our goal is to get the best deal for our children. We don’t want small shiny objects; we want, and our children need, real, aggressive reforms including an immediate expansion of school choice and reforming teacher tenure, among other things.”

API chief communications officer Joshua Pendergrass added, “It is simply unacceptable for Alabama to be number 52 in education – 52 out of 50 states – that means even Washington D.C. and the military are better educating their children than we are. We are committed to moving our state forward through smart, practical education reforms.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

14 hours ago

Auburn in the playoffs? Don’t count the Tigers out yet

You can surely call me wacky. You can surely call me unconventional. Just don’t call me Shirley. And after perusing this column, perhaps you will call me enlightened (I can only hope). Yes, I’m telling you that there’s a chance. That chance may be slim, but there’s a chance that the Auburn Tigers could soon find themselves in the College Football Playoffs.

Now, before you send me to my doctor, give me just a few minutes to make my case — my doctor can wait.

I’m here to tell you that if Auburn wins out, the Tigers could become the first-ever two-loss team that makes the four-team playoff field.

How in the name of Aubie can that happen? Here we go:

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The latest College Football Playoff poll has LSU, Ohio State, Clemson and Georgia holding the top four spots, with Alabama checking in at number five. While most of us agree that the Crimson Tide can sneak into the playoff field by winning out (Bama will need a big win over Auburn and then hope that LSU beats Georgia in the SEC Championship game), the Gus Bus also has a chance of motoring toward the final four by winning out.

So then, what do Auburn officials need to happen to make their case? They need Auburn to win the remaining games on the schedule: Should Auburn beat Georgia and then Alabama, the Tigers can boast of three wins over top-seven teams (Oregon, Georgia and Alabama). The Tigers can point to their strength of schedule, which currently ranks second in the nation behind LSU. But what about the two losses? The Tigers lost to 11th-ranked Florida by 11 points and #1-ranked LSU by three points — that’s not necessarily the playoff kiss of death.

What about all of those unbeaten and one-loss teams that are in the mix? An Auburn win this weekend would all but eliminate Georgia, and a win in the Iron Bowl would all but eliminate Bama, as a two-loss Auburn team would trump a two-loss Alabama team with the Tiger’s win over the Crimson Tide. But even if three of the playoff teams wind up being LSU, Ohio State and Clemson, how would Auburn sneak past the likes of Oregon, Oklahoma, Baylor, Utah or even Penn State (the Nittany Lions face Ohio State on the 23rd of this month)?

That’s easy, as the power of the SEC, strength of schedule and the ‘ole, “what have you done for me lately” syndrome would kick in (wins over Georgia and Alabama within weeks of one another would indeed be impressive). Oregon could be a wild card should Auburn win out, as the Ducks could claim that their only loss came at the hands of — you guessed it — Auburn.

The world of the College Football Playoffs goes through the Loveliest Village this weekend, as the Auburn-Georgia game is so big that Crimson Tide fans may find themselves rooting for Tua and friends. Remember, an Auburn win this weekend and then a convincing Iron Bowl win by Alabama would all but put the Crimson Tide in the playoffs.

Can the Auburn Tigers go all 2017 starting this weekend? Remember, the Tigers had two losses a few years back before beating Georgia and Bama. It could happen, and if it does, the Auburn family will once again remind the world that it should be respected. Could the Tigers make the playoffs? Most playoff sites are giving the Tigers a 13% chance of sneaking in. Thirteen percent odds are better than many, so yes, I’m saying there’s a chance. So get ready for another wild weekend of college football, as a game with huge ramifications will kick off at 2:37 p.m. CT at Jordan-Hare Stadium. And regardless of the game’s outcome, do me a favor: Don’t call me Shirley.

Rick Karle is a 24-time Emmy winning broadcaster and a special sports contributor to Yellowhammer News. He is also the host of the Huts and Nuts podcast.

15 hours ago

Fish added to Alabama creek to boost tourism

Hundreds of fish have been added to an Alabama creek as part of an ongoing effort to boost tourism.

Black Creek was restocked Tuesday with about 1,100 pounds of trout above Noccalula Falls by the Rainbow Fly Fishing Club, The Gadsden Times reported.

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The group also stocked 1,000 coppernose bluegill into the watershed in late March.

Rep. Craig Lipscomb (R-Rainbow City) is a member of the fishing club, and said they’re working with the city to fill a gap for activities at the falls in the winter months.

“We’re thinking about eco-tourism,” he said.

Lipscomb said trout fishing in Georgia brings in tens of millions of dollars for the state and Gadsden would benefit even from a fraction of that.

Georgia has about 4,000 miles of trout streams and they are managed by the state’s Department of Natural Resources.

Fly fishing for trout is expected to last beyond the winter months.

“They’re a cold-water fish but they’ll stick around into summer,” Lipscomb said.

He said the club plans to feed the fish to keep them in the upper part of the watershed instead of following Black Creek downstream into the Coosa.

Lipscomb said even in summer, the deeper part of the pools and shaded areas of the gorge will be habitats for the fish.

The trout will be stocked twice a year — once in November and once in February.

Fishing for trout requires a permit issued by Noccalula Falls Park as well as an Alabama State Fishing License.

Permits cost $9 per day or $11 for a three-day pass.

There are other limitations including dates for catch and release and only using fly rods, artificial lures and barb-less hooks.

More information can be found at www.flyfishgadsdenal.com.
 (Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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