Religion-free political obits as scandalized Alabama 'love gov' resigns? Believe it or not, yes

Long before he became embroiled in a sex scandal and got dubbed the "Love Gov," Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley stirred controversy.

Freshly inaugurated in 2011, Bentley made national headlines for remarks he made at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery — where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached. Bentley touted the need for Alabamians to love and care for each other, pledged to be the governor of all the state's residents and described himself as "color blind." Then came the part that sent shock waves across the media universe, as GetReligion noted at the time:

"There may be some people here today who do not have living within them the Holy Spirit," Bentley said.
"But if you have been adopted in God's family like I have, and like you have if you're a Christian and if you're saved, and the Holy Spirit lives within you just like the Holy Spirit lives within me, then you know what that makes? It makes you and me brothers. And it makes you and me brother and sister."
Bentley added, "Now I will have to say that, if we don't have the same daddy, we're not brothers and sisters. So anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I'm telling you, you're not my brother and you're not my sister, and I want to be your brother."

Yes, from the start of Bentley's administration, his role as a Baptist deacon and Sunday school teacher — in a state with a million Southern Baptists — figured heavily in his political profile.

After fighting for months to save his job — if not his soul — Bentley finally resigned on Monday.

From the New York Times:

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Gov. Robert Bentley resigned Monday, his power and popularity diminished by a sex scandal that staggered the state, brought him to the brink of impeachment and prompted a series of criminal investigations.
Ellen Brooks, a special prosecutor, said Mr. Bentley quit in connection with a plea agreement on two misdemeanor charges: failing to file a major contribution report and knowingly converting campaign contributions to personal use. He pleaded guilty Monday afternoon.
It was a stunning downfall for the governor, a Republican who acknowledged in March 2016 that he had made sexually charged remarks to his senior political adviser, Rebekah Caldwell Mason.
“I have decided it is time for me to step down as Alabama’s governor,” Mr. Bentley said at the State Capitol. He did not mention the charges to which he pleaded guilty, or the deal with prosecutors that mandated his resignation.

Anything missing from that lede?

Holy ghosts, anyone?

Honestly, I expected to see the phrase "Baptist deacon" up high in all the day-after political obits of Bentley.

After all, the hypocritical nature of his religious emphasis after his inauguration vs. how he actually behaved while serving in the state's highest office had sparked in-depth magazine pieces from publications such as GQ. 

Just last week, the Old Gray Lady had noted — with some rather awkward wording — that "Bentley spoke of how he had put his fate in the hands of a higher power, mentioning the word 'God' nine times in under seven minutes." (Really, "the word 'God'" is the best construction the time could come up with? Why not just say "God" in that reference?)

But in most of the coverage I'm seeing today, major news organizations — including the Times — neglect to mention his Baptist background. Others failing to cite that religious history include the Washington Post, ABC News, CNN, NBC News and USA Today. 

Seriously, how do you write about Bentley's bitter end without citing the detail of how he came into office spouting Baptist theology?

To its credit, The Associated Press includes that crucial fact up high:

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley resigned Monday rather than face impeachment and pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor campaign violations that arose during an investigation of his alleged affair with a top aide.
In a remarkable fall, the mild-mannered 74-year-old Republican and one-time Baptist deacon stepped down as the sex-tinged scandal gathered force over the past few days. Legislators turned up the pressure by opening impeachment hearings Monday. Last week, the Alabama Ethics Commission cited evidence that Bentley broke state ethics and campaign laws and referred the matter to prosecutors.

See how easy that was?

Nice job, AP.

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