From the philandering of Bill Clinton to the affairs of Anthony Weiner, there are few things more certain to gain tabloid attention than a political sex scandal. But ex-Alabama governor Robert Bentley’s downfall came about not because of a plucky journalist but thanks to the politician’s scorned wife Dianne. And the pitch-perfect payback that she dealt out is sure to make all husbands think twice before they cheat.
On the surface, Robert and Dianne Bentley seemed like the perfect couple. After meeting as students at the University of Alabama, the pair married in 1965 and began planning a family of their own. Soon after, moreover, they were blessed with four sons: John Mark, Paul, Luke and Matthew.
Though he briefly served in the U.S. Air Force, Robert went on to work as a dermatologist. Based in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the doctor set up a practice that made him an admired figure in the community. He was also respected by fellow practitioners, who even chose him as one of the “Best Doctors in America.”
Likewise, Dianne was popular within her community. As part of the First Baptist Church, the wife and mother regularly volunteered throughout the town. Indeed, she taught Sunday school and led a women’s bible study group for three decades before her husband entered the political spotlight.
Thanks to their position within the township, it only seemed natural that the Bentleys would enter politics eventually. And in 2002 Robert experienced his first major political success when he was voted into the Alabama State House as a Republican Representative. Just eight years later, Robert then further increased his stature when he was elected Governor of Alabama.
Through it all, Dianne stood resolutely by Robert’s side. Her blog, in fact, stated, “She firmly believes that God has given her this opportunity to serve alongside her husband.” However, this unconditional support would quickly waiver following a shocking discovery.
In 2013 Dianne began to grow suspicious of her husband’s relationship with his adviser Rebekah Mason. During weekends, Dianne observed Mason – who was living temporarily at the governor’s mansion – making numerous out-of-hours texts to Robert. Their communications seemed to be going above and beyond those of a typical workplace association.
As Robert and Rebekah’s bond grew, Dianne demanded the truth from her husband. Predictably, the politician rebuffed her accusations, but Dianne didn’t need a confession just yet. Soon, in fact, she would have all the evidence she needed courtesy of an iPad that Robert had given her.
Unbeknownst to the governor, the state-issued tablet device was receiving messages sent from his similarly state-issued iPhone. As a result, Dianne gained access to incriminating messages exchanged between the clandestine lovers. Messages such as “You look beautiful and feel so soft” and “I love you, Rebekah” were all that Dianne needed to begin divorce proceedings.
Within two years of her initial suspicions, Dianne would end her marriage with Robert. But the governor’s spurned former wife didn’t just stop there. If she was truly going to get even, Dianne believed that she would also have to bring the affair out into the open.
And as it turned out, the affair wouldn’t just have a damaging effect on Robert Bentley’s marriage – but on his career as well. You see, using state funds for an extramarital relationship was undoubtedly a serious breach of ethics, and just as importantly, it could also lead to legal charges being brought against the governor.
It wasn’t just Dianne who knew about the affair, either. In fact, more and more members of Robert’s staff were becoming aware of his ruinous romance. The public, however, were by and large oblivious to the governor’s actions.
That would all change, though, through the intervention of Dianne. With the help of her chief of staff, Heather Hannah, in 2014 Dianne discovered that her phone had a recording function, and it seemed a perfect tool to gather evidence with. So, after concealing the device in Robert’s proximity, Dianne told her husband that she was heading out for a lengthy walk.
Needless to say, the cheating governor didn’t disappoint. Less than a minute after Dianne’s departure, Robert was on the phone to Mason. And his scandalous comments – in which he expressed fondness for his lover’s breasts – were sure to convince anyone of the politician’s infidelity.
Shortly after the recordings were made, Robert was confronted with the audio by his son Paul. And while the evidence forced the politician to finally admit to his actions, it also made him paranoid about possible reprisals. In fact, the fearful governor soon resorted to threats and intimidation to try to keep his staff quiet.
As the person who’d come up with the idea of making the recordings, Heather Hannah was subjected to the most abuse. For example, Robert told the chief of staff that she’d “never work in the State of Alabama again” should she reveal the affair to the public. Hannah’s house and car were also vandalized by an unknown assailant.
In addition to his mistrust of staff members, Robert was also convinced that his political opponents would use the recording to their advantage. As a result, he instructed Law Enforcement Secretary Spencer Collier to investigate an alleged leak. Ironically, however, Collier’s involvement would prove to be Robert’s downfall.
When Collier subsequently began investigating a potential breach of ethics in 2016, Robert fired him in an effort to cover his tracks. In retaliation, though, the former staffer disclosed his ex-employer’s indiscretions to the media. Consequently, the Alabama House of Representatives began impeachment proceedings.
What’s more, rather than stand by her ex-husband in his time of crisis, Dianne actually aided the investigation. And – thanks to her audio recordings and iPad screenshots – the evidence painted a truly damning portrait of the disgraced governor. With few options left, then, Robert had little choice but to resign from his post in April 2017.
Following his resignation, Robert pleaded guilty to misusing state funds, which resulted in a lifetime ban from political office. Moreover, he’s currently under probation for a year and has to complete a full 100 hours of community service. All in all, then, his punishment serves as a stark reminder: never cross your wife.