Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, a Republican, has announced his resignation Monday amid an explosive sex scandal and allegations that he used his office to facilitate and hide evidence of his affair with an adviser.
Bentley, a 76-year-old grandfather of eight, inadvertently texted his wife of 50 years, Dianne, with a message meant for his mistress, former adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason.
“I love you Rebekah,” he texted Dianne, who abruptly filed for divorce from the governor in August 2015. Dianne said her marriage suffered an “irretrievable breakdown,” according to court records. The two had been married since July 24, 1965.
Bentley, a former dermatologist and once a Baptist deacon at First Baptist Church Tuscaloosa, is said to have regularly referred to Mason, a married mother of three who is 30 years his junior, as “Baby” during government meetings. The press nicknamed him the “Luv Gov.”
News of his resignation came only hours after a House committee began impeachment hearings and just after Bentley was booked into Montgomery County Jail. He pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges: failing to file a major contribution report and knowingly converting campaign contributions to personal use.
The Associated Press described the moment Bentley signed a plea deal:
“Bentley appeared sullen and looked down at the floor during the Monday afternoon session. …
“The agreement specifies that Bentley must surrender campaign funds totaling $36,912 within a week and perform 100 hours of community service as a physician. He also cannot seek public office again.”
After posting $600 bond and leaving the jail, he went to the state Capitol to announce his resignation.
“I’ve always believed the honor of serving as your governor is a calling that God placed on my life,” Bentley said when he resigned. “Though I have sometimes failed, I have always tried to live up to the high expectations that people place on the person who holds this esteemed office. There have been times that I have let you and our people down, and I’m sorry for that.”
He continued: “I can no longer allow my family, my dear friends, my dedicated staff and cabinet to be subjected to the consequences that my past actions have brought on them. I want you to know, I love our people with all my heart.”
On Friday, Bentley had insisted he wouldn’t resign.
Alabama’s House Judiciary Committee accused Bentley of abusing his power and creating an “atmosphere of intimidation” in its 130-page report. The former governor allegedly directed law enforcement officers to hunt down and seize recordings that would have exposed his extramarital relationship. Bentley also allegedly told officers to break up with Mason for him.
Jack Sharman, special counsel to the committee and author of the report, said Bentley “directed law enforcement to advance his personal interests and, in a process characterized by increasing obsession and paranoia, subjected career law enforcement officers to tasks intended to protect his reputation.”
The committee report included texts sent from Bentley to Mason, which were read by Dianne on the governor’s state-issued iPad given to her by her husband.
One said: “I sure miss you. I need you. I want you. You are the only one.”
Bentley is accused of threatening the first lady’s staff to keep his affair secret. According to the report, Mason left the office “with her hair tousled and her clothing in disarray.”
The report says, while he was on a business trip in Washington, D.C., Bentley opened his hotel room door wearing only boxers and expecting to see Mason.
Alabama Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey will replace Bentley. She is scheduled to be sworn in as the 54th governor Monday evening.