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Monday, April 11, 2016

Al.com did not break the Robert Bentley/Rebekah Mason sex scandal in Alabama, but it spent months attacking the reporter (me) who did break the story

Chuck Dean
The national press has been heaping praise upon al.com for its coverage of the sex scandal enveloping Alabama Governor Robert Bentley. MSNBC's Rachel Maddow called the reporting "amazing." During Maddow's interview with columnist John Archibald, a graphic identified Archibald as the journalist who "broke" the Bentley story.

Amber Phillips, of The Washington Post, went even further in an article that included behind-the-scenes tidbits from al.com reporter Leada Gore. Wrote Phillips:

Anyone who has doubts about the importance of journalists in 2016 need be acquainted only with the reporting team at AL.com, the largest statewide news organization in Alabama. The group's reporters cracked open a scandal involving their governor's alleged infidelity last week and have been covering the unpredictable fallout aggressively ever since.

Does accuracy matter these days at MSNBC and WaPo? John Archibald did not break the Bentley story, and al.com did not crack it open. This blog, Legal Schnauzer, broke the story (and cracked it open) last August, while al.com mostly dithered, wrote a few articles that touched on the edges of the story, and seemingly hoped it would go away so one of its beloved Republicans would not be tarnished.

In fact, al.com spent much of its time attacking the reporter who actually broke the story--me.

It's all out there on the Web, so you would think Maddow's team and the WaPo staff could manage to find it. But they apparently did not bother to look. So we will show you the proof ourselves, with a few pithy comments of our own.

(1) Our first example comes from an article by the venerated John Archibald, published at 12:30 p.m. on August 31, 2015. I had broken the story that morning:

Several media outlets--bloggers and radio talkers--this morning cited "sources" as they reported that Gov. Robert Bentley has without question had an affair with a female staff member, a torrid love cuddle that caused the governor's wife of a half century, Dianne Bentley, to file for divorce and ask for everything the guy ever made.

All they offered was "sources." Not proof or fact or anything more than smoke.

Comment: The venerable Archibald and al.com seem to have major problems with journalists who use anonymous sources. Archibald gets downright huffy about it, asserting that any article based on anonymous sources has no "proof" or "fact" and amounts to nothing "more than smoke." Hmmm . . . hold that thought.

(2) Our second item comes from an article by Leada Gore, WaPo's inside source on all things brilliant and honorable about al.com, published on September 3, 2015. Gore notes, with dripping contempt, that Rebekah Caldwell Mason has been named, by me, as Bentley's mistress and the driving force behind the governor's divorce :

Bentley's tenure as governor has been virtually scandal free until last week when his wife of 50 years, Dianne Bentley, filed for divorce, citing "complete incompatibility of temperament." Since then, Mason's name has been dragged into the controversy, thanks in part to blog posts and radio commenters.

Comment: Gore seems almost put out that Mason's name got "dragged" into the scandal--and Gore blames mean old bloggers and radio commenters. Since radio commenters generally do little or no original journalism, it's likely they were borrowing from my blog posts. That means Gore's ire likely is directed at me. Is it possible that Mason dragged her own name into the quagmire, perhaps by allowing Bentley to get his jollies by cupping her breasts and exploring her nether regions? We now know that's the case, but Gore was having none of it last September.

(3) Example No. 3 comes from an article by Chuck Dean, published on September 4, 2015. Dean notes a couple of key events Bentley and advisor/mistress Rebekah Caldwell Mason had shared, and then writes:

And now they are sharing something else, something totally unwanted. A rumor about the two has been circulating in mostly political circles for many months. It exploded across the Internet and blogger world Friday when Bentley's wife of 50 years, Dianne, filed for divorce from her 72-year-old husband. Despite no claim of infidelity in the divorce papers, the rumor traveled across platforms such as talk radio, Facebook, Twitter and in some blogs of dubious credibility purporting the unsubstantial rumor as fact.

Comment: What is an "unsubstantial rumor"? I'm not sure, but Dean seems to have a problem getting his words straight here (which makes you wonder, after years of layoffs, if al.com even employs copy editors anymore). This much seems clear: Dean was including Legal Schnauzer among his "blogs of dubious credibility." Now, roughly seven months later, we know our credibility, and our sources, could not be much better. What about Chuck Dean's credibility? Well, it's not in such great shape. (On a side note, Dean claims to have been a journalist for some 30-plus years, but he is not aware that many divorce complaints use boilerplate language that does not include specific allegations of infidelity, abuse, etc.? That Dianne Bentley's brief complaint did not mention infidelity says nothing about whether she is alleging infidelity in the divorce. A reporter familiar with the strange workings of domestic-relations courts should know that.)

Leada Gore
(4) This is our favorite example, and it comes from an article by Chuck Dean, published on September 23, 2015. It's topped by a headline for the ages: "Separating rumor from fact and remembering don't believe everything you read." What a strange thought to be expressed in a newspaper, which pretty much depends on people believing what they read. It's as if Dean (or the headline writer--they might not be one and the same) is saying, "Don't trust our profession; we're a bunch of hacks and scoundrels--but, please, buy our newspaper!) Here are the highlights, which are like watching Chuck Dean have a nervous breakdown:

We live in an age where anybody with a computer and an internet connection can post anything, including one blogger who has written about Bentley and Mason. That blogger, by the way, has been sued for defamation and jailed on related contempt of court charges. A Jefferson County judge in April ruled against the blogger and awarded the woman he had defamed by writing she had had an affair with a state official $3.5 million. . . . 
We can all do better who love the craft of journalism. And all of you who consume information every day from more sources than have ever existed must work to become better discerners of what you consume and maybe remember an old adage passed down from generation to generation:

Don't believe everything you read.

Comment: Wow, what has The Chuckster so exorcised here? For one, I had outed Dean as a paying customer of the Ashley Madison extramarital-affair Web site, and that had come roughly two weeks earlier--so he probably still was butt-hurt about that. The blogger Dean disses here, of course, is me. The first reference is to a lawsuit brought by GOP operative Rob Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke. Dean, of course, doesn't bother to tell his audience that the case did not go to trial (or a jury trial, as required under First Amendment law), so Riley and Duke did not prove their case, and as a matter of law, my reporting was not false or defamatory. Dean also fails to state that First Amendment law dating to the Revolutionary War holds that a preliminary injunction is unlawful in a defamation case (it's called a "prior restraint," which you would expect a journalist to know about--but not our boy, Chuck). That means the contempt order against me, and the resulting incarceration, were profoundly unlawful, unconstitutional, and (as one Birmingham lawyer called it) "insane." Yet, neither Dean, nor anyone else from al.com, has bothered to explain that--even though the case received national and international news coverage. I would be glad to explain it to Dean, or any other al.com reporter, but they have not bothered to contact me on this issue. I guess it's easier to take cheap shots at me instead.

Dean's second reference is to the notorious Jessica Medeiros Garrison lawsuit. Like Riley and Duke, Garrison engaged in machinations that ensured she never would sit for questioning in any adversarial proceeding, much less a trial. Curiously, I could not defend myself because my wife and I were forced to flee Alabama after our home in Birmingham went into a foreclosure that would have to improve to be called "dubious." Was Jessica Garrison involved in a scheme to cheat us out of our home, so that she wouldn't have to answer questions, under oath, about her relationship with Attorney General Luther Strange? We will explore that question in upcoming posts, but for now we can say this with certainty: If you made a list of people who benefited from the likely wrongful foreclosure of our home, Jessica Garrison's name would be at, or near, the top.

(5) Finally, we have another Chuck Dean article, published on December 27, 2015, where our guy still is foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog. Dean focuses, in part, on the governor's divorce from Dianne Bentley, ending a 50-year marriage:

In her filing Dianne Bentley never alleged infidelity on the part of her husband. But once the filing became public on August 28, online blogs - some discredited in courts of law and others with dubious histories - were almost instantly filled with unsubstantiated rumors of an extramarital affair between Bentley and a senior advisor. . . .

If Bentley, most Alabamians and even Montgomery insiders were shocked by the news, a handful of bloggers didn't seem to be surprised. Within hours of the painful news, blogs rolled out posts featuring far-fetched stories with highly implausible details about the alleged affair.

What they did not roll out was any proof.

Comment: Dean's reference to a blog that has been "discredited in courts of law" obviously is a reference to Legal Schnauzer. Does Dean provide evidence that a court of law has issued any ruling that is correct under the facts and the law and "discredits" this blog? No, he does not. In other words, he doesn't "roll out any proof"--to borrow a phrase from Dean himself--and that's because no such proof exists. On the subject of proof, my post that broke the story was based on information from anonymous sources, the same kind al.com itself uses. As for Dean's tired "unsubstantiated rumors" line, which he has used at least three times (by my unofficial count) . . . well, that now just sounds like so much horse feces, doesn't it?

What about al.com's supposed aversion to the use of anonymous sources? Well, their own recent work shows the aversion only applies when another journalist uses such sources--especially when that journalist has kicked the mainstream media's ass on a story. When al.com relies on anonymous sources, it is A-OK.

As for Chuck Dean, he inspired us to come up with a new adage: "If you read something at Legal Schnauzer, you can take it to the bank because that blog's credibility has been proven to be top notch. Otherwise, don't believe everything you read--especially if Chuck Dean, or anyone else at al.com, has written it.


Anonymous said...

MSNBCs has Maddow on a really short leash, and its whoever does the most butt kissing for the establishment thats gets the recognition. They appear impish, subservient, cowardly, and pathetic. but their is a paycheck for such degrading behavior.

Id just soon keep my pride and self esteem than be apart of the scam.

I sometimes questions how all these so called good judges, lawyers, cops, and journalists keep working in their profession. It would be awflully hard for me to stomach what they witness even if they aren't a part of and not just quit altogether. If you don't lose sleep over something you witnessed where someone is victimized then maybe you need to look at yourself and check your motives.

My cousin was an attorney and he's selling crayfish now off the side of the road for example.

It's a scary time in our history where the truth really doesn't matter and the media/government so casually lie but of course they put a nice pretty bow on that lie and sell it to the public.

Yeah the mainstream press/government has there own version of the truth and because of this we can rarely discern the true from the false. This is when society breaks down because none of us know how to make a decision based on this falsehood presented to us.

"Well after the Bentley story AL.com has redeemed theirselves and restored faith in the media so says Maddow." Such bs.

Anonymous said...

The headline should read journalist who was jailed for doing his job and recognized by the CPJ was recently denied recognition or credit breaking the Bentley affair which has launched a criminal investigation. Alabama local website AL.COM and a major news outlet MSNBC decided it was best for them to take credit to improve their terrible ratings.

Anonymous said...

Chuck Dean really should resign. What a disgrace he is as a "reporter." I think he had a case of puppy love for RCM almost as bad as the one Bentley had.

Salt and Peppa said...

Al.com did not want this story to get legs. That's why they tried so hard to discredit you. They wanted it to go away.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for publishing this. I had forgotten how aggressively Dean and Archibald and Gore went after you. This was pretty vicious stuff, over several months. And we now know you were right all along, as was Donald Watkins.

Anonymous said...

Paul Gattis, acts the same way as dean, they get lost when it pertains to good journalism.

legalschnauzer said...

Note to readers: Following is a comment that was placed today on an old post. Because of the potential importance of the comment, I am cutting and pasting it here, so more folks can read it:

Anonymous said...
Check this out LS.

A report today has some interesting information.

"MONTGOMERY—The State has given notice to the court that it plans to introduce other crimes, wrongs, or acts in the case against Speaker Mike Hubbard, under Rule 404(b)."

The particular item of interest:

"The State also supplied the defense with letter regarding RFP (Request For Proposal) No. 2012-02, for Comprehensive Inmate Health Care Services."

That would be the RFP for the $224 million single bid prison health care contract awarded to Corizon by the Bentley administration.


$224 million Alabama inmate health care contract bidding process favored sole bidder Corizon, letter claims

"A competitor for Alabama's $224 million inmate health care contract claimed in a letter critical of the process that a costly stipulation helped push the firm out of the bidding race.

The Alabama Department of Corrections required that the winning vendor had to buy a $5 million performance bond in order to get the contract.

But when the deal was signed two years ago, the Alabama Department of Corrections scrapped the requirement altogether. Private prison health care firm Corizon was then awarded the 34-month contract after it submitted the only bid for the work."


Powerful firm lobbies for Alabama prison health contractor, then defends company in court

"Maynard Cooper & Gale employees Linda Maynor and Clay Ryan lobbied for Corizon in 2012, and 2013 and 2014, respectively, Alabama Ethics Commissions reports show. Both lobbyists are veterans of Alabama politics.

Ryan served as special counsel to Gov. Robert Bentley three years ago, a volunteer position. Maynor, a volunteer on Bentley's campaign finance committee, earned the designation of "super ranger" after raising more than $300,000 for President George W. Bush's 2004 re-election campaign, her Maynard Cooper & Gale profile states. In 2003, she was named Alabama Republican of the Year and she served as the Alabama Republican Party's finance chair.

When Maynor worked as a lobbyist for Corizon in 2012, the firm won a 34-month $224 million contract to provide health care for the state's 25,000 inmates. It was the only firm to submit a bid for the work.

Corizon and MHM Health Services, the state's inmate mental health care provider, hired Maynard Cooper & Gale to defend the state against a lawsuit the Southern Poverty Lawsuit filed against it in June that claimed the medical care provided to inmates was unconstitutional."

One more detail:

Campaign booster for Alabama Gov. Bentley was lobbyist for Corizon, prison health care contractor targeted in lawsuit

Two years ago, Maynor was hired as a lobbyist by private prison health care provider Corizon, which went on to win a $224 million private prison contract after submitting the only bid for the work. But Maynor did not lobby for the Tennessee-based firm, her 2012 quarterly lobbying reports show.

Instead, Maynor worked on "legislative issues" for Corizon and reported the firm as her only client in the Alabama Ethics Commission's 2012 registered lobbyist list.

Corizon's contract review report does not show that Maynor worked for the firm. Signed by Corizon's former chief operating officer and Kim Thomas, Alabama Department of Corrections commissioner, the report was submitted to the Legislative Oversight Committee

Was Mike Hubbard getting Corizon money somehow?
Was anyone else in the Bentley administration getting Corizon money?

April 11, 2016 at 1:31 PM Delete

Anonymous said...

$224 million Alabama inmate health care contract bidding process favored sole bidder Corizon, letter claims http://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2014/08/alabama_prison_health_care_con.html

Powerful firm lobbies for Alabama prison health contractor, then defends company in court http://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2014/08/law_firm_defending_alabama_fro.html

Campaign booster for Alabama Gov. Bentley was lobbyist for Corizon, prison health care contractor targeted in lawsuit http://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2014/08/campaign_booster_for_alabama_g.html

Anonymous said...

Looks like this Corizon story could have connections to Bob Riley:

"Maynor has been active in politics since 1986 and has managed political campaigns and fundraised for Republicans at the state and federal levels. Former Gov. Bob Riley selected her to serve on his Education Spending Commission and Riley also appointed her to serve on the Alabama Certificate of Needs Board."

Anonymous said...

More ties between Corizon and Riley Inc. --


Anonymous said...

How about this?


"Alabama prison boss gives vote of confidence to embattled inmate health care firm

By Brendan Kirby on August 20, 2014 at 6:51 PM, updated August 21, 2014 at 12:11 PM

ORANGE BEACH, Alabama – Alabama Corrections Commissioner Kim Thomas on Wednesday gave a vote of confidence to Corizon Health Inc., which has been accused in lawsuits across the country of providing inadequate health care to prisoners.

One of those lawsuits is pending in federal court in Montgomery, where the Southern Poverty Law Center accuses the company of failing to provide adequate health care to prisoners with disabilities."

Followed by this:


After leaving top prison job, Kim Thomas finds soft landing with Gov. Bentley

"By Casey Toner on April 17, 2015 at 8:30 AM, updated April 17, 2015 at 8:31 AM
One day after resigning amid a federal investigation into sex crimes at the state's all women's prison, Alabama's top prison official found a new role in Gov. Robert Bentley's office.

"The governor asked for his experience," Bentley spokeswoman Jennifer Ardis said. "The governor asked him to bring his experience and his expertise over to the legal office."

Former Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Kim Thomas is paid a yearly salary of $123,500 in his new position as deputy legal adviser. He started working for Bentley on Jan. 28, went on leave March 31 and is set to retire May 1."

Anonymous said...

Chuck the cuck has seen better days. What a disgrace.

Anonymous said...

LS: Thanks for the update--and keep up the great work!

They say that patriotism is the last refuge
To which a scoundrel clings
Steal a little and they throw you in jail
Steal a lot and they make you king

-Bob Dylan/Sweetheart Like You (1983)

Anonymous said...

Roger, as I used to say, "I read the Birmingham News before bed so there will be nothing on my mind before an sleep." I now do the same with AL.COM. It is terrible reporting. Keep up the outstanding journalism.

Anonymous said...

Roger, I thank you for being a beacon of hope.

Anonymous said...

Newspapers are in the profit business like other businesses. They’re not necessarily in the business of telling the truth or giving credit where it’s due unless it would be to their advantage.

Asking them to be honest and give Roger credit for breaking the story would be like asking them to shoot themselves in the foot. In comparison, Congress would probably more readily vote themselves term limits or pay cuts than for a newspaper’s editor and/or publisher and/or OWNERS to have to “eat crow” (admit they were wrong.) Not mentioning those poor underpaid journalists with the great benefit packages!

What’s curious is that much of Alabama seems to be reading news that’s created by a New York family owned company.


“….In 1956, the Hanson family sold the News to S. I. Newhouse Sr.'s Advance Publications in New York for $18 million, the largest sum that had been paid at the time for a daily newspaper. The privately held Advance continues to own the News as well as The Huntsville Times and Mobile's Press-Register, the three largest newspapers in Alabama, as well as their shared website, al.com….

….When offering a political endorsement, the paper generally skews toward the Republican Party with a few exceptions….”

Anonymous said...

I emailed WAPO and told them the first two people I saw post about the story was you and Watkins in August 2015. I also told them Al.com criticized the story until they got a chance to take credit for breaking it. I have never heard back from them.

Anonymous said...

It's amazing that they get the credit when they spent all that time calling it "rumors from an un-named blog".