By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Longtime Birmingham area journalist, sports talk radio and conservative talk radio host Lee Davis, addressed the members of the Mid-Alabama Republican Club (MARC) in Vestavia on Saturday.
Davis told the members that the implosion of the ‘Birmingham News’ was the dominant issue in the local news business. Davis said that it has been less than a year since Alabama’s largest newspaper went from seven days a week to just three days a week and at this point he wondered if the three day a week paper would remain a year from now.
The MARC was holding their monthly breakfast meeting at the Vestavia Public Library. Alabama State Representative Paul DeMarco (R) from Homewood moderated the event.
Davis said that the next three election cycles are very important for this country.
Davis said that there has always been criticism of the ‘Birmingham News’ but the papers of the 80s and 90s look great compared to what the ‘Birmingham News’ has become. Davis said that the News idea of editorial page balance is Joey Kennedy and Eddie Laird. Davis said that the ‘Birmingham News’ has, “Turned into a left wing rag.” Davis said that that does not make sense from a marketing standpoint. Davis said that the majority of the potential readership in the greater Birmigham area lives in the Sixth Congressional district (currently represented by Spencer Bachus (R) from Vestavia) which is the most conservative district in the country.
Davis said that other publications and news sources are moving in and taking up the slack. Davis said that the ‘Tuscaloosa News’ now has more news about Hoover than the ‘Birmingham News’ does.
Davis said that local talk radio is currently in a state of flux. Management level decision makers made incorrect decisions to moderate their formats after President Obama was re-elected in 2012 and he himself has been a casualty of that trend.
Davis said that radio stations are trying to be less controversial. “They almost are imposing the ‘Fairness Doctrine’ on themselves,” but it has gotten to the point locally that they are literally doing shows about Fourth of July barbecue recipes.
Davis said that the demise of the ‘Birmingham News’ and questionable format decisions on local talk radio stations have only continued the movement toward the internet.
Davis said that the next casualty will be TV news. Station managers would rather cover non-controversial topics like celebrity news and fluff than do in depth coverage of actual news issues.
Davis predicted that there will be more and more movement away from traditional media. Of the three traditional news sources Davis said that local talk radio has the best chance to survive.
I am not sure that Birmingham News will be around a year from now as a three day a week publications
Davis said that the Washington Post sold for just $200 million shows us the state of newspapers. For many years it was the standard for investigative journalism now it changes hands for roughly the value of a good second baseman.
Davis said that papers are making editorial decisions to get rid of the hard news. Davis said, Like local talk radio stations newspapers are dumbing down media. It is all about money. It is all about markets; but Davis said you can adapt without losing your soul.
Davis said that he talked with Andrew Breitbart shortly before his death and Breitbart said that ‘Politics always follows culture.’ Conservatives often get that backwards.
Davis said that gay marriage is a good example. “I never thought we would get to the point where if you believe that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman you would be on the defensive. ” Davis said that ABC made the decision 15 years ago with ‘Will and Grace’ that they were going to show homosexuality as another decision like vanilla or chocolate ice cream and we are seeing the cultural changes that resulted from that.
The somebody like Obama could get elected in the first place shows how much the culture has changed.
Davis said that the miniseries about Hillary Clinton is a lot like the favorable coverage that John Glenn received from ‘The Right Stuff.” Everybody at the time thought that that would propel the astronaut turned Democratic Senator to the White House: it didn’t and Davis thinks that it won’t be enough to overcome her incredibly poor record as Secretary of State. What she didn’t deserve is Diane Lane playing her. We have to assume that Hillary is the Democratic nominee.
Davis said, “It is kind of sad to see where NBC news has evolved to. They made an editorial decision to become a left wing advocate.” Davis said that he expects to see more polarization in news.
Davis told that gathered group of conservative leaders, “One mistake we have made is that we have all come to the mindset that everybody watches Fox News.” Fox may dominate the ratings of news cable networks, but Fox is a small percentage of overall viewers.
More people watch ‘Dancing with the Stars’, Kareem Abdul Jabar’ jumping off of a diving board, or what’s left of ‘American Idol’ than watch Fox News or listen to conservative talk radio. So many people out there don’t watch Bill O’Reilly…..or the liberal news shows. We need to figure out how to reach those people.”
Daivs said that is favorite news web site is RealClearPolitics.com out of Chicago. It takes the best of the day on both the left and the right. Davis said that he doesn’t do World Net Daily and similar sites. “
I try not to go down rabbit holes.” Davis said that his favorite columnist is Charles Krauthammer. Amy Stoddard with the Hill.com is a very good friend. He also like Investors Business Daily and the ‘Detroit News’ has very good editorial page. Davis said that George Will is a good read and so is Walter Williams.
On the 2014 Senate midterms Davis said, “I am scared to death that there is a lot of missed opportunities like 2010 and 2012. “We have done a terrible job of recruiting candidates.”
Davis has hosted or co-hosted numerous radio shows and was most recently a talk radio host at 101.1 FM.
Davis said that as we choose our candidate we have to look at the electoral map. Romney only flipped North Carolina and Indiana. Neither should have ever gone Democratic. To win Republicans need to flip back Ohio, Florida, Virginia, steal Michigan and have got to compete in Nevada, Colorado, or New Mexico. “I don’t see Rand Paul or Rick Santorum doing that.”
Davis said we need to come up with a new package. The candidate who can break the mold Davis said is Suzanna Martinez the Republican Governor of New Mexico. Even her position on immigration will surprise you. “She can get tough on immigration and you can’t call her a racist.”
Davis said that we lost the culture war was when we got timid about values.
Davis predicted that Alabama will play Ohio State in the BCS national championship game, the Atlanta Braves will win the World Series, and the San Francisco Forty Niners will play in the Super Bowl.
The next meeting of the MARC will be on September 14th.
The Republican Women Of the South announced that they will have Condoleeza Rice at their Luncheon on December 19th at the Vestavia Country Club. Sponsorships are still available.
Alabama Eagle Forum announced that there will be an informational forum on Common Core at the Briarwood Presbyterian Church sanctuary on Friday 16th from 7:00-9:00 pm.
Jones says Senate race a choice between “substance and leadership, and nothing”
“One of the great disappointments in this campaign is that Alabama is not really getting choices between substance and substance,” Jones said.
Speaking outside the Calhoun County Democratic Party headquarters in Anniston on Friday, Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, told a group of supporters that Alabamians haven’t gotten a look at what his Republican opponent might do if he wins the Nov. 3 election.
“One of the great disappointments in this campaign is that Alabama is not really getting choices between substance and substance,” Jones said. “They’re getting a choice between substance and leadership, and nothing — nothing. We have not heard anything from Tommy Tuberville about what he really wants to do.”
While Jones has held numerous interviews with the media, and regular web briefings over the summer and in recent weeks, Tuberville’s campaign seems to prefer the safety of keeping Tuberville from making possible gaffs or damaging statements in interviews.
Tuberville hasn’t agreed to interviews with traditional media outlets, or to debate Jones, and instead has focused on conservative talk radio spots, speaking to smaller Republican groups and at private parties.
Tuberville’s campaign has ignored or denied our numerous attempts to interview Tuberville, including another request on Friday. He also declined to attend a student forum held at Auburn University on Wednesday, which Jones attended. The forum was sponsored by the Auburn College Republicans and College Democrats.
“If you ever hear something Tommy Tuberville says, it is just simply this: ‘Build a wall. No amnesty. Drain the swamp.’ That ain’t him. That’s Donald Trump,” Jones said. “He cannot think for himself. He doesn’t think for himself.”
Jones spoke of his record of working to help veterans through legislation. And he referred to Tuberville’s nonprofit for veterans and reporting that indicates, through tax records, that less than a third of the money raised for Tuberville’s charity went to help veterans.
“I don’t just create charities and send only pennies on the dollar. I do things for the veterans of this state and this country,” Jones said.
Jones also made a case for Alabamians to remember the contributions past Democrats made in the state. Jones said it was Democratic Sen. John Sparkman who helped build Alabama’s Redstone Arsenal.
“It was a Democrat, Lester Hill, who built the rural hospitals around here that Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell and Tommy Tuberville are trying to destroy,” Jones said. “It was Howell Heflin who built up agriculture in this state. Those are the Democrats. It was Franklin Rosevelt that put electricity in this state. We’re going to do the same thing for broadband. People forget those things. They forget those things because we’ve let other people define us with lies.”
Jones plans to visit Jefferson County on Saturday, then on to the Black Belt and Mobile on Sunday with another stop in Birmingham on Monday afternoon.
“The goal is to get everybody out. That’s the thing if we want to continue to ensure Alabama moves forward — moves forward and not backwards, to continue to have somebody, if I do say so myself, somebody that’s just not going to damn embarrass us,” Jones said.
“We’ve had too much of that in Alabama,” Jones said, “and I bet you it won’t be a year that Tommy Tuberville would be an embarrassment to this state because he doesn’t know the issues. He doesn’t know what to do, and he’s dang sure not going to know what to do when Donald Trump is not president of the United States.”
Jones encouraged supporters to be skeptical of recent polling. One such recent poll, by Auburn University at Montgomery, puts Tuberville ahead of Jones by 12 percentage points, 54 to 42.1. An internal poll by Tuberville’s campaign puts Tuberville ahead by 15 percentage points, while an internal poll from the Jones camp put Jones ahead by one percentage point.
“Don’t listen to these polling folks that come in, and they don’t know Alabama, and they don’t know what they’re doing. We’re tracking this race, and I can tell you, everything has been moving in our direction the last two months,” Jones said.
People standing along roadsides holding his signs and showing support, Jones said, is “the energy we’ve got out there. That’s what you can’t poll.”
Ellen Bass of Anniston, standing outside the Calhoun County Democratic Party headquarters just after Jones spoke, told APR that she has numerous Republican friends who are voting for Jones.
“My hat’s off to them because they’re coming out,” Bass said. “They recognize that he is a better candidate.”
Ciara Smith, 21, newly elected to the Anniston City Council, told APR outside the headquarters building that Jones is the better candidate.
“I think that he’s educated. I think that he speaks with passion and heart,” Smith said. “And he knows what he’s talking about, which is important, and which is more than we can say about the other candidate.”
Speaking to APR after his speech to supporters, Jones said that he feels very good about the state of his campaign.
“Everything we’re seeing is moving in our direction,” Jones said. “And the more he stays hidden, the better it is for us.”
Inmate assault injures two St. Clair prison correctional officers
The assaults happened at approximately 7:30 p.m. and both officers were taken to a local hospital and treated for those non-life-threatening injuries.
Two correctional officers at St. Clair Correctional Facility were injured in an inmate-on-officer assault on Monday, the Alabama Department of Corrections confirmed to APR.
Among the two officers who sustained non-life-threatening injuries was a basic correctional officer (BCO), a position created in May 2019, who are not Alabama Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission (APOST) certified and who have some limitations on working directly with inmates without correctional officers present.
The other officer injured was a full correctional officer, Alabama Department of Corrections spokeswoman Samantha Rose told APR in a message Friday. The assaults happened at approximately 7:30 p.m. and both officers were taken to a local hospital and treated for those non-life-threatening injuries and subsequently released, according to Rose.
“The ADOC condemns all violence in its facilities, and the actions taken by the inmate against ADOC staff are being thoroughly investigated,” Rose said. “As the investigation into this incident is ongoing, we cannot provide additional detail at this time. More information will be available upon the conclusion of our investigation.”
The ADOC created the new basic correctional officer position to bolster the state’s woefully understaffed prisons. The creation of the position was also at the suggestion of experts ordered by a federal court to study the department’s staffing problems, ADOC attorneys wrote to the court in a filing in 2019.
The ongoing lawsuit is over the state’s handling of mental health in prisons.
The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Alabama Disability Advocacy Program filed the 2014 suit arguing the state was indifferent to the health of inmates dying by suicide in greater and greater numbers.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs in June argued that ADOC was far behind on the court-ordered hiring new additional officers. It has been more than two years since U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ordered the Alabama Department of Corrections to hire an additional 2,000 correctional officers by 2022.
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson in a previous opinion wrote that prison understaffing “has been a persistent, systemic problem that leaves many ADOC facilities incredibly dangerous and out of control.”
“Taken together, ADOC’s low correctional-staffing level, in the context of its severely overcrowded prisons, creates a substantial risk of serious harm to mentally ill prisoners, including continued pain and suffering, decompensation, self-injury, and suicide,” Thompson’s previous opinion continued.
The SPLC in court filings late last year expressed concern over the use of basic correctional officers in Alabama’s overcrowded and understaffed prisons. ADOC attorneys have argued to the court, however, that BCO’s are adequately trained to do their jobs and are needed for the department to hire the necessary number of officers per the court’s timeline.
In a court filing on Thursday, attorneys for the plaintiffs asked the court not to again delay site visits to Alabama prisons by two experts who are tasked by the court to determine which positions should be filled by correctional officers and which by BCO’s and which by another new position, called cubical correctional officers, who are to have no direct interaction with inmates.
Those visits were to begin in May, but both parties in the suit agree to wait due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the threat it posed to the experts, who are particularly vulnerable to the disease due to “age and other factors,” according to court records.
Both parties again agreed to postpone those visits in June for those same reasons, those records show. ADOC seeks a third extension but attorneys for the plaintiffs argue that the experts can visit the prisons while keeping themselves, prison staff and inmates safe from harm of COVID-19 and that thousands of employees and contractors enter Alabama prisons daily.
The plaintiff’s attorneys argue in the court filing that the expert guidance is needed because ADOC wishes to use BCO’s and cubical correctional officers to comply with the court-ordered hiring of additional staff by Feb. 20, 2022.
“Ensuring adequate staffing is of upmost importance to address the constitutional violations underlying mental health care within ADOC,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote to the court Thursday.
ADOC in May was employing 494 BCO’s, a 57 percent increase in the number of BCO’s employed in Oct. 2019, according to ADOC’s staffing numbers. The number of correctional officers working in Alabama prisons fell by two percent during that time, dropping from 1,319 to 1,287.
Slow absentee voting in Tuscaloosa sparks outrage, possible legal action
Among the issues were incredibly long lines that left some voters waiting more than five hours and an inefficient process that managed to take in fewer than 100 absentee ballots in six hours.
Long lines and slow absentee ballot processing in Tuscaloosa County have left voters outraged and incumbent Sen. Doug Jones’s campaign threatening legal action.
On Wednesday, Jones’s campaign attorney, Adam Plant, sent a letter to Tuscaloosa County Circuit Clerk Magaria Bobo, outlining a number of issues with ongoing absentee voting and promising to take legal action if Bobo doesn’t improve the process on the final day, Friday. Among the issues documented by Plant were incredibly long lines that left some voters waiting more than five hours and an inefficient process that managed to take in fewer than 100 absentee ballots in six hours.
Additionally, Plant noted that Bobo has hired her family members to help process absentee ballots and at least one family member had made disparaging remarks on social media about voters.
“You and those acting on your behalf are suppressing the vote of qualified Alabama voters,” Plant wrote in the letter. “If you are unable or unwilling to execute your duties competently, and allow Tuscaloosa voters to exercise their voting rights without undue burdens, we will take further action.”
In an interview with the Montgomery Advertiser on Wednesday, Bobo noted that her office had received more than 13,000 requests for absentee ballots — a remarkable uptick from the 3,000 or so her office usually receives — and there had been problems in managing that number of ballots while also adhering to social distancing guidelines within the office.
However, as Plant’s letter notes, the massive increase in absentee ballots for this election shouldn’t have been a surprise. Also, Secretary of State John Merrill had made additional funds available to absentee managers to facilitate hiring extra staff, purchasing additional computers and staying open for longer hours to accommodate the anticipated increase.
In a press release on Wednesday, the Alabama Democratic Party criticized Bobo and her family members, and the release included screenshots of Facebook posts from Bobo’s daughter lashing out at voters who complained about the long wait times.
“No voter should have to wait in line for hours to exercise their rights,” said ADP executive director Wade Perry. “We should leverage every tool we have to make voting easier, not harder. Also, it should go without saying that election workers should not insult the very people they are employed to serve. If Ms. Bobo is incapable of processing voters quickly, someone else needs to do the job.”
Jones campaign calls Tuberville a “coward” after no-show at Auburn forum
“Tuberville is hiding because he knows that on every front — policy, experience, character, competence — he loses to Doug Jones. Hands down,” Jones’s campaign said.
There are only four days left before election day, and incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones’s re-election campaign is slamming Republican challenger Tommy Tuberville, accusing him of “hiding” and calling him a “coward.”
On Wednesday, Jones addressed an Auburn University forum. Tuberville did not attend.
“Tonight, the College Democrats and College Republicans at Auburn University co-hosted a debate between Doug Jones and Tommy Tuberville, offering students a chance to ask the candidates about the issues that matter most to Alabama,” the Jones campaign said in an email to supporters. “But Tuberville never showed up – he’s too scared to face Doug… even on his own home turf. Tuberville has repeatedly refused to debate Doug Jones. He’s consistently refused to be interviewed by the press. He’s refused to tell Alabama the truth about who and what they’re voting for – and it’s clear why.”
“Tuberville is hiding because he knows that on every front — policy, experience, character, competence — he loses to Doug Jones. Hands down,” the campaign continued. “If he won’t tell the truth, we will. Tuberville expects to win this race off of his blind allegiance to the President and his party affiliation. But Alabamians know better.”
“People deserve to know who they’re really voting for if they vote for Tuberville: someone who … won’t protect our health care, doesn’t believe in science, has no idea what the Voting Rights Act is, and doesn’t care about the lives and livelihoods of Alabamians,” the Jones campaign concluded. “Alabama will never elect a coward. Pitch in now and help us spread the truth about the man hiding behind the ballot.”
“I am disappointed that Tommy Tuberville is not here,” Jones said. “I think it is important that people see two candidates side by side answering the same questions.”
Tuberville meanwhile is canvassing the state, speaking to rallies and Republican groups to turn out the Republican vote for himself and President Donald Trump. Tuberville spoke at Freedom Fest in Madison County on Thursday and at the Trump Truck Parade rally in Phenix City.
“It’s time Alabama had a U.S. senator who represents our conservative beliefs and traditional values,” Tuberville said in Phenix City. “It’s time Alabama had a U.S. senator who supports the Second Amendment, the right to life, and putting God back in the classroom.”
Polling consistently shows Tuberville with a commanding lead over Jones. Real Clear Politics lists the race on their current board as a likely Republican win. FiveThirtyEight’s election model gives Tuberville a 79 percent chance of defeating Jones.