|Robert Bentley and Rebekah Mason
We're talking here about the Republican, "family values" governor of a Deep Red state perhaps stepping down in disgrace. The story has drawn the attention of The New York Times, The Washington Post, the New York Daily News, the Rachel Maddow Show, Esquire, GQ (classic headline: "The Love Song of Robert Bentley, Alabama's Horndog Governor") and other national news outlets, so it's obviously an important story. You would think al.com might take the time to get it right.
Alas, Alabama's mainstream journos are about seven months late to the party. The first anniversary of the "Luv Guv Scandal" was on Aug. 31, 2016. I know because I broke the story on Aug. 31, 2015. The first anniversary of stories about the misuse of public, campaign, and "dark money" funds, which could form the foundation of Bentley's resignation or impeachment, was on Sept. 1-2, 2015. I know because I broke those stories, too. (See here and here.)
Translation: Both the titillating gist and the substantive grit of the "Luv Guv" story broke on this blog, in the non-traditional press. So, why is al.com claiming the first anniversary dates from March 22, 2016, when the story actually broke seven months prior to that? Why the spate of stories such as these in recent days?
* "Robert Bentley to resign? Governor's office dispels rumors," March 17, 2017
* "Gov. Robert Bentley: A year of living scandalously," March 22, 2017
* "Gov. Robert Bentley resignation rumor: 'No intention of not doing what God called me to do,' March 23, 2017
* "Go ahead, Gov. Robert Bentley, tell your story," March 26, 2017
Reporters and editors at al.com probably would say, "Well, the story didn't really break until text messages and a recording surfaced of Bentley and Mason engaging in dirty talk on the telephone." But the texts and recordings showed that Bentley and Mason had engaged in a physical affair -- and we had reported that months earlier.
The words of al.com's own reporters -- in this case, John Archibald -- show the story did not begin with recordings. From Archibald's "Year of Living Scandalously" story:
In the span of 24 hours [Bentley's] transformation from family values grandpa to lecherous Luv Guv was under way. Even then it was impossible to foresee what a seismic year would follow.
At times the whole nation sat back and laughed as Alabama covered its face in sheer humiliation.
Earth to Archibald: The transformation of Robert Bentley, in journalistic terms, began seven months earlier than you want to admit -- and the "seismic" year already was well under way before your "news organization" took serious notice.
In fact, Archibald and colleague Chuck Dean had spent part of those seven months blasting me and my reporting. Archibald claimed my reporting "offered . . . 'sources.' Not proof or fact or anything more than smoke."
Dean, undoubtedly pissed that I had outed him as a customer of the the Ashley Madison extramarital-affairs Web site, offered this critique: "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." (Can someone define an "unsubstantial" rumor? I guess that is in contrast to a "substantial" rumor?)
This blog's credibility, as it turns out, could not be any higher. I actually was going after a story about the state's chief executive officer, not sniffing up Rebekah Mason's skirt like Chuck Dean. (The two were "besties" on Facebook.) By the way, Dean's journalism career seems to have gone into a nose dive. Can't remember the last time I saw one of the Chuckster's stories. Maybe they have him compiling bowling scores in the sports department's agate section -- you know, those statistics in really small type.
As for me, this post is getting dangerously close to an exercise in self-aggrandizement. (Full disclosure: I am scheduled for shoulder surgery later this week, due to excessive "patting of patient's own back.") The truth is this: The real journalistic heroes here are the anonymous sources who provided me with the details to break the "Luv Guv" story. If I deserve credit for anything, it's for developing relationships with some very smart individuals, folks who know Alabama politics inside and out. Once they started feeding me scoops on "Luv Guv" and "Home Wrecky Becky" . . . heck, Dagwood Bumstead could have written the stories.
Perhaps that is why al.com reporters prefer to ignore that seven-month gap between the actual breaking of the story and their own acknowledgment of it. They know my sources have journalistic and investigative bona fides that far surpass their own. And they know my sources helped a one-man blog kick the ass of a fading corporate-media property.
If anyone doubts where the "Luv Guv" story began, consider these words from our post of Aug. 31, 2015:
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley engaged in an extramarital affair with his former communications director, leading First Lady Dianne Bentley to file for divorce last Friday after 50 years of marriage, sources tell Legal Schnauzer.
Rebekah Caldwell Mason, a married mother of three from Bentley's home base of Tuscaloosa, was the governor's mistress in an affair that sources say raises a number of possible legal issues--including use of the state jet and a state trooper's services for personal reasons that had nothing to do with Bentley's official role.
History has been kind to those words. The texts and recordings that surfaced in March 2016 were important; they added details about Gov. Bentley's mindset that made the public want to alternately laugh and puke. But the basics of the story were in the two paragraphs above, which we wrote seven months before anyone knew about texts or recordings.
How did that happen? It happened because of knowledgeable sources who care about justice, who care about unmasking corruption. It's about sources who know, if they contact a reporter from a corporate media outlet (especially one in Alabama), their message is likely to be ignored if it reflects poorly on a right-wing politician. Those sources know they can contact Legal Schnauzer, and their message will be heard -- and it will be taken to heart.
Reporters at al.com want you to forget about that seven-month gap in the "Luv Guv" story because it shows they are ethically compromised on stories about right-wing politicos, such as Robert Bentley, Bob Riley, Bill Pryor, Luther Strange, John Merrill, and Jeff Sessions -- to name a few.
We are not so compromised. And that has helped us attract sources that can kick al.com's ass most any day of the week.