Truth In Journalism: It's Time to Set the Record Straight
By Donald V. Watkins
©Copyrighted and Published (via Facebook) on April 28, 2017
©Copyrighted and Published (via Facebook) on April 28, 2017
On March 31, 2016, Washington Post reporter Amber Phillips stunned Alabamians by publishing an article titled, "The inside story of how Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley's sex scandal broke wide open". The article opened with the following bravado paragraphs:
"Anyone who has doubts about the importance of journalists in 2016 need be acquainted only with the reporting team at AL.com, the largest statewide news organization in Alabama. The group's reporters cracked open a scandal involving their governor's alleged infidelity last week and have been covering the unpredictable fallout aggressively ever since.
This scandal didn't come to them overnight; they've been hearing rumors of an affair between Gov. Robert Bentley (R) and his top political adviser, Rebekah Caldwell Mason, for months. The story finally broke open on March 22 when a fired top law enforcement official went on the record toAL.com's John Archibald about the alleged affair and offered proof…"
AL.com leaped-frogged from this benevolently bestowed journalistic acclaim to multiple national TV appearances on The Rachael Maddow Show. Once there, AL.com's John Archibald basked in the warm glow of Rachael Maddow's praise for "breaking" the story of Bentley's love affair with Mason. Surprisingly, Archibald never corrected Maddow for conferring unearned credit upon him for "breaking" the Bentley sex scandal story.
Truth in journalism requires that I set the historical record straight on the media's coverage of Robert Bentley's love affair with Rebekah Caldwell Mason.
I broke the story of Governor Bentley's secret love affair with Rebekah Mason in an article published on this Facebook page on August 28, 2015 – the same day First Lady Bentley filed her divorce petition. On August 31st,Roger Alan Shuler published an online article naming Rebekah Caldwell Mason as Bentley's paramour.
On August 31st, John Archibald dismissed these articles as "blogging" on unsubstantiated "rumors" of Bentley's extramarital cheating. No mainstream media organization would "break" any hard news story on the Bentley-Mason secret love affair for the next six months. They all deliberately looked the other way.
By the time I published my exclusive four-part series of investigative articles titled, "Forbidden Love - Robert Bentley's Secret Love Affair" (released on September 4th, September 9th, September 11th, and September 13th, respectively), which was followed by a second four-part series titled, "Executive Betrayal – Robert Bentley's Fleecing of Taxpayers and Donors"(released on September 16th, September 20th, September 25th, and October 2nd, respectively), Bentley had already made me the "target" of a criminal investigation for "threatening the Governor". Bentley was determined to destroy my personal and business reputations as punishment for exposing the embarrassing details of his love affair with a married woman. The only Alabama journalist who had the courage to co-publish my articles in real-time was David Meck Meckley. His news site is located at: www.themeck.blogspot.com. These articles are permanently archived on Meckley's home page.
Based upon impeccable and well-placed sources inside Bentley's inner circle, my "Forbidden Love" and "Executive Betrayal" articles described the torrid love affair between Robert Bentley and Rebekah Mason with a level of detail and accuracy that has withstood the test of time. The Legislature's April 7, 2017, Impeachment Report affirmed the love affair and cover-up activities my news team first reported in these articles.
Throughout my work to expose and report the truth about Bentley's love affair and his fleecing of taxpayers and donors, Bentley used his position as "Chief Magistrate" of the state of Alabama to encourage various state and federal agencies that regulated my companies to run me out of business. The governor's allies even tried to have me indicted for securities law violations by a New Jersey federal grand jury. All of these efforts failed, miserably.
Bentley unleashed every weapon in his gubernatorial arsenal against me. None of them deterred me from consistently reporting exclusive hard news stories about Bentley's "sex for power" scandal with Rebekah Mason.
While I was reporting on Governor Bentley's "Forbidden Love" and "Executive Betrayal" in September and October of 2015, Al.com's most seasoned investigative reporter, John Archibald, was publishing stories on: (a) Birmingham restaurateur George Sarris; (b) the Birmingham city council buying a drone; (c) motions filed in former House Speaker Mike Hubbard's case; (d) Clay Ryan's new job at the University of Alabama; (e) the hung jury in a Madison County police trial; (f) new emails in Hubbard's case; (g) Bentley's trip to a Birmingham prayer vigil; (h) the fate of former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore; and (i) millionaire Blue Cross executives.
Charles Dean, AL.com's beat reporter for the governor's office in Montgomery, busied himself by writing "powder puff" articles glorifying Bentley and Mason. Alan Roger Shuler later revealed that Dean was a "customer" of Ashley Madison, the leading online dating site for married cheaters.
AL.com only came to the frontline of media coverage on Bentley's extramarital affair when Archibald published a March 22nd story based on his interview with Spencer Collier, the ALEA chief who had been recently fired by Bentley. Prior to this story, AL.com had taken a six-month holiday from publishing any hard news detailing the governor's secret love affair with Mason.
AL.com and John Archibald can rightfully take pride in the "Johnny-come-lately" articles they published after Spencer Collier was fired. However, it would constitute an act of "journalistic fraud" for AL.com or John Archibald to knowingly accept credit or accolades from the Washington Post, Rachael Maddow, or anybody else for "breaking" the story of Robert Bentley's love affair with Rebekah Mason. The documented history of media coverage on this gubernatorial scandal does not support any credible claim that AL.com or John Archibald broke this story.
By the time AL.com published Archibald's March 22nd article on Governor Bentley's love affair, my Facebook news team had already done all of the hard, tedious, investigative work needed to expose the scandal. All of this work was performed under heavy artillery fire from Bentley. The first and second waves of investigative news articles reporting the governor's secret love affair had been written and published by me six months earlier.
Truth in journalism may not matter that much at AL.com, but it is the standard of journalistic ethics regularly practiced on this Facebook news page. This is why we are the fastest growing news service in Alabama.
Donald V Watkins