Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Rural Alabama publisher calls for KKK to 'night ride' against Democrats who want to raise taxes; outcry ensues

UPDATE, Feb. 20: Directors of the Alabama Press Association have censured Goodloe Sutton and suspended his newspaper's membership. "The members have a right under the bylaws to address the question of expulsion of the newspaper at the next membership meeting," APA said.

Goodloe Sutton in 2015
(Montgomery Advertiser photo by Alvin Benn)
A newspaper publisher in rural Alabama is drawing criticism after he wrote a Feb. 14 editorial calling for "the Ku Klux Klan to night ride again" against "Democrats in the Republican Party and Democrats [who] are plotting to raise taxes in Alabama."

Goodloe Sutton has worked at the Democrat-Reporter in Linden since 1964 and inherited the paper from his father in the 1980s, Melissa Brown reports for the Montgomery Advertiser. The paper has lost much of its circulation and struggled financially in recent years, the Advertiser reported in 2015.

When the Advertiser asked Sutton about the editorial, he said, "If we could get the Klan to go up there and clean out D.C., we'd all been better off." Asked to clarify what he meant, Sutton said "We'll get the hemp ropes out, loop them over a tall limb and hang all of them."

Sutton, who is about 80, told the Advertiser he was calling for the lynchings of socialist-communists, not Americans, and compared the Klan to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The Klan, he said, "wasn't violent until they needed to be" and "didn't kill but a few people." Sutton said he welcomed comments, calls or boycotts of the paper, Brown reports.

Red marks Linden in Marengo County;
Demopolis is at north border (Wikipedia)
An outcry against the editorial began after student journalists at Auburn University posted it on Twitter. The Southern Mississippi University School of Mass Communications and Journalism removed Sutton from its Hall of Fame, the Advertiser reports, and the Auburn University Journalism Advisory Council revoked a community journalism award it had given him, The Auburn Plainsman reports.

"Sutton and the newspaper received national acclaim in the 1990s for their reporting on a corrupt local sheriff," Brown reports. But in 2015 he landed the paper in the public eye for a different reason, after running a headline titled "Selma black thugs murder Demopolite Saturday night." Demopolis (2010 population 7,483) is home of the daily Demopolis Times and the largest town in Marengo County, which had 21,027 people in 2010. Linden had 2,123.

Democratic officials in the state swiftly denounced the editorial. "Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who prosecuted two members of the Klan for their role in the 1963 Birmingham church bombing that killed four young girls, called the editorial 'disgusting' and demanded Sutton’s immediate resignation," Antonia Farzan reports for The Washington Post. "Echoing the call for Sutton’s resignation was Rep. Terri A. Sewell (D-Ala.), who wrote, 'For the millions of people of color who have been terrorized by white supremacy, this kind of ‘editorializing’ about lynching is not a joke — it is a threat.'"

UPDATE, Feb. 22: Auburn journalism professor John Carvalho writes for the Advertiser that he was warned that Sutton was racist when the school honored him in 2009, but kept quiet about it, and that "allowed racism to fester and even grow. And now, within the current political climate, it is once asserting itself more strongly than ever."

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