On a segment of Sunday's Last Week Tonight on HBO, host John Oliver drew America's attention to Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and his alleged sexual escapades with a co-worker. After leading the state for five years, the 73-year-old refuses to step down, despite pressure from local politicians. Instead, the governor has consistently denied allegations that he was having an affair with chief adviser Rebekah Mason, who has since chosen to resign. The scandal heated up after a former state official leaked a cringeworthy recording of the governor describing encounters with Mason.
Unsurprisingly, Oliver played CNN's broadcast of the recording, evoking an unsettling sense of embarrassment into any audience member who heard it. Oliver jokingly compares the recording to an "eighth-grader trying to convince the boys' locker room he's had sex." But that's beside the point. Bentley's case is small reflection of the corruption that has infiltrated the state's government.
The speaker of the Alabama House, who is currently facing felony charges, will present the articles of impeachment to the governor, who is accused of a sex scandal, and the whole thing will be presided over by the chief justice, who was once removed from office for ethics violations. This is either a grave insult to the state of Alabama or the most Alabama thing that the state has ever done.
This legislative pecking order reveals quite a bit. Mike Hubbard, who became Alabama's Speaker of the House in 2010, might have even bigger problems than Bentley. In October 2014, the politician was charged with 23 class B felonies, including using his position for personal gain, accepting gifts from lobbyists, and using state material for personal gain. Over two years later, he remains in office and will be responsible for presenting the articles of impeachment in Bentley's future trial.
After being indicted, Hubbard dismissed the allegations as a "political witch hunt" and told his audiences that the charges represented "politics at its worst." Two additional legislators now face charges as a result of the investigation.
As Oliver pointed out, it doesn't end there. Like Hubbard and Bentley, Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore was accused of allegedly putting his own personal interests before those of the state. In a February 2015 interview with The Los Angeles Times, Richard Cohen, President of the Southern Poverty Law Center, nicknamed Moore "the ayatollah of Alabama" for a legitimate reason that also involves Bentley: Before marriage equality was legalized nationwide in June 2015, Alabama was on track to becoming the first state in the Deep South to allow it until Moore illegally intervened.
In January 2015, a United States District Judge struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage, deeming it unconstitutional. Moore was not pleased by the decision, and subsequently ordered that all local judges ignore the new legislation. In a letter to the courts, Moore enlisted Bentley to "ensure the execution of the law." By the next morning, Moore's efforts were shut down and same-sex marriage licenses became available.