Last week Gov. Robert Bentley’s house of cards (what’s left of it) began to tumble. Bentley’s longtime body man Wendell Ray Lewis, who retired early in 2015, filed a lawsuit against the Bentley and his alleged former mistress, Rebekah Mason, in which the longtime chief of protection leaves little to the imagination when it comes to the governor’s indiscretions.
The lawsuit, which alleges wrongful termination (that Lewis effectively was forced into retirement) and defamation, lays out the paranoid, intense environment Montgomery has become under Bentley’s lack of leadership, and outlines what Lewis sees as the reality of the governor’s closetful of skeletons.
The lawsuit includes Lewis’ recollection of events involving some of Bentley’s most intimate moments.
“One time, on the front porch of the Governor’s Tuscaloosa home,” one section of the lawsuit reads, “[the governor] told (Lewis), ‘I love Dianne. But I love Rebekah more.’”
Later, the lawsuit says Lewis tried to get clarification about the depth of Bentley’s relationship with Mason.
“Governor, there’s a lot of talk going on. Was it a physical relationship?” Lewis reportedly asked Bentley. The governor replied: “Yeah, it was physical.”
Revelations like that one may come as a surprise to the few who still take Bentley at his word. Even now, Bentley denies his relationship with Mason was physical, despite his referencing fondling her in a previously released recording of Bentley speaking to Mason, and despite the new allegations in Lewis’ suit.
The lawsuit also claims the governor asked Lewis to break off the affair on his behalf, something Bentley then backed down on:
“We use state vehicles, we use state planes, to move about. You’re requesting to put her [Mason] in there, that’s a problem,” the lawsuit says Lewis told Bentley. The governor’s response? “Ray, I know. I need you to go upstairs and break up with Rebekah for me.”
According to the complaint, Lewis obliged, going to meet with Mason in Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey’s conference room in the Capitol.
“You can’t be his girlfriend and have him take you around in state cars and planes,” Lewis claims he told Mason.
“I know,” she reportedly replied, but Bentley entered and began rubbing Mason’s shoulders, saying to her: “Baby, it’s gonna be alright.”
According to another part of the lawsuit, Bentley allegedly asked Spencer Collier, former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency head, for advice as to how to end an affair.
“The governor, crying, replied ‘Spencer, how did you end yours?’ Collier replied ‘Governor, I just cut if off at the nub. You’re just gonna have to cut it off at the nub … It’s gonna bleed, but you will eventually get over it.’”
Aside from the morally dubious behavior detailed in the lawsuit, Lewis recounts events that call into question the governor’s ethics while in office. Lewis says the source of Mason’s and others’ salaries were shifted in order to make the governor’s office look more fiscally responsible. Bentley also reportedly ordered generic Viagra in the former First Lady’s name, having it delivered to the Governor’s Mansion. Dianne Bentley allegedly intercepted it and brought it to Lewis’ attention. Lewis also claims to have knowledge of Bentley prescribing Mason medications.
As for Bentley, he released a statement after the suit was filed denying its truthfulness.
“The outrageous claims are based on worn-out internet rumors, fake news and street gossip,” Bentley said. “These bogus claims are an attempt to smear my administration, to distract from the important matters facing our state and to attempt to assign wrongdoing where it does not exist.”
The issue certainly is “distracting from the important matters facing our state,” but that’s certainly not Lewis’ fault. It’s Bentley’s.
Jockeying for Sessions’ senate seat has begun
The jockeying for Jeff Sessions’ U.S. Senate seat has begun even before the Selma Republican has been officially nominated to the post of Attorney General of the United States, as is expected. Almost every major (and minor) player in Alabama politics has announced their willingness to serve in the soon-to-be-vacant seat if appointed by Gov. Bentley.
One person in particular, though, has been forceful about his intention to replace Sessions. Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange has thrown his hat in the ring, even pledging to run during the next election cycle regardless of who gets the interim appointment.
“The people of our state sent me to Montgomery to fight corruption and fight for them. I’ve worked hard to honor that trust,” Strange said in a statement. “We’ve led the fight against the Obama administration’s illegal executive overreach, we’ve put conservative principles into action and we’ve held wrongdoers accountable, even if they were in my own party. I plan on doing the same in Washington.”
To his potential challengers, Strange even issued an electoral warning:
“If you accept the appointment from Gov. Bentley, you’re going to have to beat me to keep the job.”
That will be a tough fight, but one Strange may very well not have to fight, as he seems to be in the best position to receive Bentley’s appointment. Only time will tell.
Alabama deserves a strong opposition party
After President-elect Trump is sworn into office in January, Republicans will dominate virtually all of U.S. government, controlling the federal government and a significant majority of state governments. Here in Alabama, Republicans have had a supermajority in the state Legislature since the 2010 election, when then-state GOP chairman Mike Hubbard led a takeover he termed “storming the Statehouse.”
That storm didn’t come without its acid rain. Hubbard is now a convicted felon, having been found guilty of using his office for public gain. Almost half a dozen lawmakers, almost all Republicans, have been arrested, indicted, convicted or a combination thereof since then. For all these reasons, and because Alabama’s real policy challenges deserve honest and robust debate, Alabama deserves a strong opposition party.
Although the Alabama Democratic Party has its problems (and they’re serious and stubborn), Alabamians deserve real choices at the ballot box, and that’s not something we’re currently getting. Many have called for Joe Reed and Nancy Worley, the party’s longtime leaders, to step down. Many have called for party unity. I’m calling for common sense: Elections are about choices. Give voters some.