This morning, a recently deposed top police officer in Alabama told AL.com that he had heard audio of the state’s governor, Robert Bentley, having a sexually charged conversation with Rebekah Caldwell Mason, a top advisor who, dating back to last year, has been rumored to be the governor’s mistress. Late this afternoon, the audio of that conversation leaked, forcing Bentley to hold a press conference in which he apologized for his remarks while still maintaining that he and Mason never had an affair.
You can hear the audio above. The recording is from 2014 but is of unknown origin (though local muckrakers, who have been on the Bentley affair story since the beginning, say they know). It captures one side of a phone conversation between Bentley and Mason, with her voice unheard. Here are some highlights, all quotes from the governor:
- “You kiss me. I love that. You know I do love that.”
- “You know what, when I stand behind you and I put my arms around you, and I put my hands on your breasts, and I put my hands on you [unintelligible] and pull you real close...”
- “Hey, I love that too, putting my hands under you.”
- “Oh, great. I think about that right now, so let’s do it.”
- “Yeah, I could tell you were thinking about—I could tell you were thinking about it last night.”
- “It’s okay, everything is going to be fine. We’re going to be alright this week.”
- “I love you. I love to talk to you. I do.”
- “But baby, lemme tell you what we’re gonna have to do tonight: Start locking the door. If we’re gonna do what we did the other day, we’re gonna have to start locking the door.”
In his press conference late this afternoon, Bentley admitted that the audio is indeed between him and Mason. Nonetheless, he still tried to thread an impossible needle. Via AL.com:
Bentley said his comments, captured on recordings in 2014, have hurt his family and Mason’s. He called today “a difficult day.”
He repeated over and over that his sins were in the words he used in talking to Mason, nothing more.
When asked to comment on the recordings – part of which include Bentley describing how he liked the come up behind the woman and touch her breasts – he clarified that it was not a “sexual relationship.”
It’s hard to fathom how Bentley can assert that he and Mason did not have a sexual relationship. He seems to make several references to sex, saying to Mason that “I could tell you were thinking about it last night” and “we’re gonna have to start locking the door.” At the very least, he admits to touching her breasts. The alternative that he’s proposing—that he didn’t have a sexual relationship with Mason but did feel her up—is actually worse than if they were having an affair. It would be, potentially, sexual assault, or, at the very least, highly inappropriate workplace behavior that would easily make the case for him to resign his office.
Of course, that might happen anyway. Bentley, despite his insistence to the contrary, was caught speaking sexually to a subordinate at a time in which he was still married to his wife, whom he separated from in January 2015 before officially divorcing in September. Republicans in his state have already pressed the attorney general to investigate whether Bentley used state funds to cover up the affair, and the leaking of this audio only figures to add fuel to those flames.