In 2014, when he was still married to his now-ex wife Dianne, Alabama governor Robert Bentley was secretly recorded talking to his alleged mistress Rebekah Caldwell-Mason, who is also one of his closest advisors. Earlier this week, after months of public speculation regarding his alleged infidelity, Bentley held a press conference to address an excerpt of a recording of a phone call between he and Mason that was leaked to AL.com. The two-minute long snippet posted by the newspaper captured Bentley describing both physical and emotional intimacy with Mason, who currently serves as the governor’s senior political advisor. Above, you can hear relevant parts of the entire 14-minute recording obtained by Gawker, the full contents of which have not been previously published.
The tape was sent to us by an anonymous source. Like AL.com, we have edited it down to erase periods of silence in the recording during which Bentley is listening to Mason speak to him. We have also cut out some mundane chit-chat—Bentley discussing the weather, Mason apparently talking to him about music—between the two alleged lovers. What’s left is a conversation between two people who, as AL.com’s original snippet made clear, were clearly in the midst of an intense relationship that they nonetheless needed to keep secret.
The tape opens with Bentley telling Mason that his wife has just gone for a walk on the beach (a local gossip blog has reported that Dianne left her cell phone behind to record what Bentley might say while she was gone). After that, you will hear the following from Bentley:
- “I was so afraid I wasn’t going to have the chance to talk to you.”
- “I’m fixing to come up there and sit on the back porch with you. Can I sit by you and can you put your head on my shoulder?”
- “Well, I’m sorry, baby, you know how it is. We really worked hard, we really did. Hey, I love you.”
- “Hey, listen sweetheart, I want you to have a good time, okay? Well, hey, look baby, you’ve been getting up early for me for a long time.”
- “I love—I love when you come and see me.”
Bentley then discusses with Mason the impending quasi-retirement of his executive assistant Wanda Kelly, who sits in his office, and thus overhears his conversations. He tells Mason:
“You know, I’ve been thinking about—I think I’m going to rearrange the office when Wanda retires. She’s not gonna retire, she’s just gonna work part-time, but you know, I think that would be a good time to do it.”
“I don’t want her right there. I honestly don’t. And it doesn’t have anything to do with you and me—uh, well, it does I guess—but really and truly I don’t think somebody needs to be right there listening to every word that is said in that office. I just really don’t.”
- “I miss you. I wish I was with you right now.”
- “I love you. I do. You know, I worry sometimes I love you so much. I worry about loving you so much. I do.”
- “I feel all the time: How can I contact her? How can I call her? How can I touch—text her? How can I get in contact with her? How can we do this, you know.”
He then tells Mason about a text he meant to send to her but that he accidentally sent to “Zach,” who appears to be Zach Lee, Bentley’s director of local government affairs:
“I text you and I said, ‘I’m sorry I have not been able to call.’ I said something along the lines of, ‘How much time?’ Or something like that. ‘I’m sorry but—.’ It went to Zach.
“So, well, now, he texted me back and he said, ‘Did you get the videos? You sent it to the wrong person, but did you get the videos?’ And I texted back and said, ‘Yeah. Yeah I did, Zach.’ I said, ‘Thanks. I didn’t mean to send this to you, I had some people I needed to call.’ So, it was fine. He couldn’t—because he couldn’t—he couldn’t tell who I was sending it to. And it didn’t say, ‘Hey baby, I love you so much, and I’d like to spend the rest of my life with you.’”
The end of the recording is what AL.com posted on Wednesday night, in which Bentely tells Mason:
- “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 following the initial release of the audio, Bentley maintained that he did not have a sexual relationship with Mason, saying, per AL.com, that, “his sins were in the words he used in talking to Mason, nothing more.” The part of the tape released by AL.com did not support that benign excuse—Bentley talks of touching Mason’s breasts—and neither does the full recording.
In a Facebook post put up this morning, Mason’s husband said that he “long ago resolved the personal issue playing out now for everyone this week”:
On behalf of our family I would like to thank everyone for their prayers and messages of unconditional love and grace over the past few days. I wanted to share that I long ago resolved the personal issue playing out now for everyone this week. Please continue to support families, the governor, and our state with prayers as we all move forward.
Nonetheless, for Bentley, the saga of his alleged affair is nowhere close to ending. State auditor Jim Zeigler announced today that he has filed a report to the Alabama Ethics Commission to trigger a formal investigation into “The Governor’s misuse of state property, and the legality of Senior Political Advisor Rebekah Caldwell Mason’s status as either a public official or lobbyist.” In the press release, Zeigler is quoted as saying:
“The Governor continues to disgrace the state of Alabama, and in my official capacity as State Auditor, I am require to report these suspected violations. It is clear to me that he is misleading the state about the nature of his relationship, but it is also clear that Ms. Mason is required to either be classified as a public official, or file as a lobbyist, in her capacity as an advisor who is paid by an outside source.”
Bentley’s office has not responded to a request for comment.