By Chris Reid
Last year, rumors began circulating concerning Alabama Governor Robert Bentley and his adviser, Rebekah Mason. Following the release of an illicit audio recording of the two, serious allegations came to light of a affair between Governor Bentley and Mrs. Mason. Alabama’s House Judiciary Committee is currently overseeing an impeachment investigation concerning a separate but related allegation of misuse of state funds by the governor. It’s been over a year since complaints against the governor were filed with the Alabama Ethics Commission. Governor Bentley adamantly denies any such claims, though he and his wife have since divorced.
Governor Bentley returned to the spotlight this month when hospitalized at Baptist Medical Center South overnight for an irregular heartbeat. News of the trip left many wondering how long Bentley’s tenure in office would continue. Republican Representative Ed Henry, lead proponent of the governor’s impeachment, spoke with reporters last week. According to Rep. Henry, the House will act on the Articles on Impeachment in the very near future, “pending the outcome of a senate trial.” Henry continued that, in order to avoid impeachment, the governor would have to resign by mid-April.
There hasn’t been much public polling, but what little polling is out there puts Governor Bentley’s approval ratings in the teens. In fact, a poll done by a BSC professor last June showed governor Bentley with a 17% approval rating, and the current news cycle is likely going to drop the number even further. If the 17% number is accurate, then it would be one of the lowest approval ratings of a sitting governor since the invention of polling. Governor Bentley has completely lost the trust of the people of this state and is therefore unable to lead. The state legislature does not take him seriously and although he carries the formal power of Governor, he has lost all moral authority.
The scandal with Rebekah Mason has cost the Governor more than he could have ever imagined. He lost his wife of 50 years, his relationship with his children is strained, and he is facing potential criminal charges if he used state funds to cover up this affair. Regardless of the legal outcome of the case, there is nothing left for the governor after his term is over because his term was so marred by public scandal, it is unlikely that he would have many people willing to associate themselves with him. Yet, I believe that many people in Alabama would be willing to forgive the governor and potentially give him another chance if he would simply be willing to repent for what he has done. The governor needs to first seek forgiveness from God and his family, and then the people of this state deserve an honest account of what happened. Right now the polls are so low that there is no way the legislature is going to be able to find a way not to remove him from office, and if they failed to follow through with impeachment, then the people of this state could throw out many of them in the next cycle. Governor Bentley started his administration talking about loving his brothers and sisters in Christ, and by taking a stand on faith issues, he has held himself out to be someone who trusts in the Lord. Regardless of any voter’s particular faith, all of us understand what sincere repentance looks like. Bentley’s apologies to this point have in no way dealt with the real issues of breaking trust with his family and the people of this state. He has done some good things as governor, and I would hope that when the history books are written, they don’t just discuss the sex scandal. The only person who can make this choice is the governor, and I believe that sincere and contrite repentance could restore his governorship and hopefully restore his relationship to his family. The point of writing this isn’t to attack the governor but to encourage him to do the right thing and see how gracious both God and the people of this state would be to him because like I said he has done many positive things for this state and is a very bright governor.
The scriptures teach in Proverbs 16:18-19 that, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.” This verse cautions all those who seek power. It takes courage to ask for forgiveness and to acknowledge one’s own shortcomings. It is my hope that Bentley will recognize the error of his ways. After all, “what shall it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul?” (Mark 8:36). It is far more important to have family than power. What good is having a seat in the Governor’s mansion if you have no one to come home to? Bentley is in control of his own actions moving forward. If he asks for forgiveness and truly gives himself to God, only then will he find peace and reconciliation. Bentley has already lost so much, and if he is unable to find humility with God, he stands to lose even more. He has already lost his wife and the support of constituents. He must be careful to not lose sight of God as well, for without God, undoubtedly we have nothing.
No matter Bentley’s actions, we are likely to see some form of a conclusion to this matter in the next few weeks. The Ethics Commission is meeting April 5, and they are expected to release a report on their findings. Whether it is by means of an impeachment or resignation, Bentley’s tenure as Governor will soon come to an end if he doesn’t act soon. For his own good, I hope Governor Bentley is able to own up to the mistakes he has made and accept the consequences humbly that are to come.
Mr. Reid is general practice attorney in Birmingham Alabama. He has worked for Republican leadership in the United State House of Representatives in Washington, DC, and was a health policy advisor to the Governor of Alabama. You can contact him by email at [email protected] or by phone at 205-913-7406. A description of his practice areas is available at www.reidlawalabama.com.