By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
Since it was revealed that Alabama’s First Lady, Dianne Bentley was divorcing her husband of 50 years, there has been a growing feeding frenzy over speculation about an illicit affair.
Jumping head-first into the fray are the bloggers, radio talking-heads, commercial media, and of course, more than a few scandalmonger wags across the internet.
The question hinted at, and in some cases, answered as fact, is “Was Gov. Robert Bentley having an affair with a staffer?” Any honest reporter, while digging for the facts would have to admit, they don’t know.
Bentley could put an end to speculation by holding a press conference and denying the affair. The Governor has said his divorce is private matter, and to some degree that is true. But, he asked to be the leader of our State, and the people granted him his wish. With his office comes a responsibility to be honest with the people, whether it is about taxes, marriage, or divorce.
We at the Alabama Political Reporter have a policy of not printing rumors concerning sexual relationships, peccadilloes, or other indiscretions, that are common with those in, and surrounding our government. If we reported on every claim of debauchery, there would be little room for anything else.
Bentley has championed family values. He has worn his Christianity on his sleeve, and has called on others to follow the Gospel’s teachings. But, now, because of his impending divorce, the people want to know, and rightly deserve to know, if the Governor is a liar and a cheat.
In his book Telling Lies: Clues to Deceit in the Marketplace, Politics, and Marriage, Paul Ekman states, “There are two primary ways to lie: to conceal and to falsify. In concealing, the liar withholds some information without actually saying anything untrue.
The people of Alabama want to know if their Governor is concealing information.
In the absence of answers, speculation rushes in to fill the void, and in politics, most often widespread speculation leads to the most vile assumptions.
Gov. Bentley has said his political enemies are shooting at him. Of course they are, and his silence gives them more time to reload and keep firing. How his campaign funds were handled as well as his, secretive 501(c)(4), is providing his enemies plenty of ammunition. Silence is not the Governor’s friend.
None of these things, and for that matter, an affair, constitutes in, and of itself, a crime. Speaker Mike Hubbard has been charged with 23 felonies and still leads the House, so, the bar on character and moral failing has been set extremely low in Alabama.
There are many who believe Gov. Bentley lied to them about taxes, and others felt betrayed when he removed all of the Confederate flags from the Capital grounds. These things have harmed the Governor’s credibility exponentially. However, these rumors, masquerading as facts, may do irreparable harm if not addressed properly, and promptly.
Bentley can recover from this public debacle. He can survive even if there were personal failings. President Bill Clinton endured impeachment, and public shame, but he survived.
The only thing that will bring the Governor down is if a crime has been committed. All the rest is just so much grist for the scandal mill.
Over the last serval months, the Governor has proven himself politically tone deaf, and floundering.
Our State is at a crossroad; fiscally and morally, and it is time for strong leaders to rise up, whose moral compass’ are true.
For the moment, the public waits to see if Gov. Bentley will fill that role.
The first step is to speak openly and honestly with the people, and to answer their questions. They deserve to know, and they need to know…now.