I’ll admit it. As a kid – an upstart pulling guard — I was in awe of the Hannah family. There was John and David and Charley, and their Dad Herb before them.
They were the First Family of Alabama football. John and David were monsters. And John, well, he was the best football player Alabama ever saw. And maybe the best offensive guard ever to play the game.
But it wasn’t just that. These were people who were quietly good, who sunk their money, without press conferences or marketing strategies, into helping other people. They worked hard and lived decent lives.
And on the field they ground other giants to pulp.
They were my heroes.
But they ain’t got nothing on Heather Hannah. She’s what a hero looks like in today’s Alabama.
Heather Hannah was chief of staff to former First Lady Dianne Bentley. She was, according to the report released Friday by lawyers for the House impeachment committee, the person who helped Mrs. Bentley create the damning and disturbing recordings of the governor’s lovey-dovey phone conversations with his aide Rebekah Caldwell Mason.
But she was more than that. She was the one who became the target of Gov. Bentley’s blind rage and paranoia. She was the one, according to this report, who Bentley blamed most for his problems. Not himself, but her.
He threatened to have her arrested and tried to make it happen. He vowed she would “never work in the State of Alabama again” if she told anyone about the affair.
Like a twisted, tyrannical old man he pointed his finger in her face and warned that she should “watch herself” because she “did not know what she was getting into.” And this – and this says it all – he told her that because he was governor he had power over her. Because people “bow to his throne.”
Bow to his throne.
It was abusive and pathetic and wrong. And it is the kind of tactic that often works for would-be despots.
But Robert Bentley – it is hard, after reading this report, to think of him as anything but the Abuser-in-Chief – had no idea who he was threatening. He had no idea of her mettle or makeup.
Because Heather Hannah did not bend. She planted her feet like her uncle did for so many years at the New England Patriots, and she knocked that trash-talking imbecile on his ass.
My favorite line in this whole report, in the 130-plus page document and the 3,000 pages of exhibits, is this one:
“Hannah testified she was not “intimidated” by this encounter (in the kitchen), but believed that was the governor’s intent, the report says.
She was later harassed in pure Nixonian style. Threats were written on her car – “Die Bitch,” and a stone was thrown through her window. Bentley tried again to have her arrested, but she did not bend.
She did not speak. She did not leak. She did nothing but do right by her boss Dianne Bentley, who had, ironically as it turned out, made it her mission as First Lady to combat physical and psychological domestic abuse.
We have spoken often about this sordid, squalid affair. Robert Bentley is clearly far worse than we ever imagined. Rebekah Mason, too, is clearly far worse than we ever imagined. And that is saying something. They are mismatched and perfectly matched all at the same time, arrogant and incompetent and dangerous to all they touch.
But there are heroes, too.
Hannah. I am in awe of her.
Dianne Bentley. Ditto.
Ray Lewis, who took copious notes about all the events, who took heat for his own overtime pay in the beginning (that was me) but laid out the story of Bentley’s abuses in a way no one else could.
Spencer Collier, who has been dragged through muck by Bentley before and after he first revealed the Mason affair, is shown time after time doing the right thing for the state, despite his own feet of clay.
There is much for Alabama to be ashamed of in the Robert Bentley scandal.
There are some, however, in whom we should be proud.