Alabama’s Governor Robert Bentley was a mild-mannered dermatologist in T-Town until he was, to the astonishment of many, elevated to the state’s highest office.
Bentley has received national attention and has been the brunt of jokes for late-night talk show hosts in the last few months because of an alleged relationship that he had with his former advisor Rebekah Caldwell Mason and a recording of sexually explicit comments about essentially “squeezing her peaches.”
His wife of over fifty years divorced him. Before the marriage’s end, they were reported to have had a few serious tiffs. On one occasion he left their house in Tuscaloosa in his truck to go to his beach house without his wallet. Not to worry. He sent the state’s helicopter to retrieve it.
There has been a lot of publicity about the use of other types of aircraft as well. Conner Sheets reported:
Gov. Robert Bentley’s prolific use of state planes has been the subject of intense scrutiny in the months since rumors first emerged that he had an affair with Rebekah Caldwell Mason, a former top adviser.
But the murkier topic of how exactly Bentley used private planes has been largely absent from media coverage.
One major reason for the lack of reporting about the governor’s private plane habit is the fact that there are no public records detailing when Bentley hired such aircraft. Unlike with state airplanes and helicopters, there is no legally mandated public paper trail for the private flights Bentley took.
Controversy over Bentley’s frequent use of state planes has played a role in the fallout of the allegations that the governor had an affair with Mason. A key potential question for investigators is whether Bentley used taxpayer-funded state aircraft for personal use – perhaps to keep his wife and alleged mistress apart, as some have alleged.
An article by Lucy Berry “Alabama brewery to debut Unimpeachable Pale Ale mocking Bentley scandal” describes a new offering by Salty Nut Brewery:
An Alabama craft brewery will observe the state’s new growler law by debuting a limited-release peach beer inspired by the ongoing Gov. Robert Bentley scandal.
The promotional artwork references a leaked recording, part of which includes Bentley describing how he liked to stand behind Mason and touch her breasts. Both Bentley and Mason have denied there was a physical relationship between them.
“When naming and branding a beer, we try to come up with names and imagery that are memorable and descriptive of the beer, and feel that Unimpeachable Pale Ale is both,” said Salty Nut co-owner Jay Kissell in an interview with AL.com.
Unimpeachable Pale Ale, made with fresh peaches and Idaho 7 hops…
Several state lawmakers have called for impeachment of Bentley “for willful neglect of duty, corruption in office, incompetency and offenses of moral turpitude.”
Some of Bentley’s ideas may have actually been a tad too progressive for Alabama lawmakers. He was starting to backtrack on Medicaid expansion and said, “I am concerned about the plight of the working poor … If doctors are not paid for seeing those patients, doctors will not go to rural Alabama because you can’t expect a doctor to go to rural Alabama and lose money.”
Then, there was the subject of taxes.
As Amber Phillips wrote in the Washington Post article “Rebekah Caldwell Mason, and how Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley ‘lost his mind’”:
After his successful reelection bid in 2014, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley did something that shocked many of his fellow Republicans: He called for raising taxes to shore up the state’s budget — $500 million in new taxes, in fact.
The moment was particularly head-scratching for anyone who had been following his career. It came mere months after Bentley had successfully campaigned on his record of not raising taxes in his first term.
“He frankly lost his mind,” AL.com reporter Leada Gore told The Fix on Thursday. “He starts throwing out tax increases — it’s almost as if somebody flipped a switch and we got a different governor.”
That flipped switch, many in Alabama now think, had something to do with Rebekah Caldwell Mason, a former TV anchor who attended the same church as Bentley in Tuscaloosa and rose to become his top adviser.
The cries for Bentley’s impeachment may be coming from some people who are less offended by his personal improprieties than by a perceived breath of liberality and compassion for the poor. And there is a high level of sanctimony in the hearts of Alabamians. Casting the first stone is no problem in The Heart of Dixie.
Alabama has had one Governor in its history whose notoriety eclipsed anything done by Bentley. Alabama’s 42nd Governor “Big Jim Folsom” was pulled from the gutter on many occasions after going on benders that would have killed normal mortals. He was even once sued by an unwed woman who claimed he fathered her son.
A 1996 New York Times article “Sadistic Yellow Vitriol” by Maureen Dowd recounted Folsom’s behavior:
Big Jim Folsom, also known as Kissin’ Jim Folsom, the hard-drinking, bigger-than-life Southern populist who was Governor of Alabama in the 50’s, was in a tough race once when his aides warned him that his opponent had laid a trap. The rival camp was sending out a beautiful woman to try to maneuver Big Jim into a compromising position.
The Governor took the news calmly. ”Boys,” he drawled, ”if they use that bait, they’ll catch ol’ Jim every time.”
Historian Dan T. Carter once wrote that Folsom suffered from “too much whiskey, too many women, too few honest friends.”
Governor Robert Bentley, who lives in today’s goldfish bowl media culture, has had everything but the kitchen sink thrown at him. Now his image even graces a bottle of ale.
But, in Alabama, nothing is really a given except winning football. So impeachment and peach favored ale may not go hand in hand.