By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
This poem attributed to Martin Niemöller is a poignant reminder that if evil is to triumph, good people just need to remain silent.
This should be warning for members of the Press Corps.
President Pro Tem Del Marsh has decided that the Britts are not journalists. If you are a reporter, and write articles that he doesn’t like, you could be next.
Marsh recently told Tim Lockette of the Anniston Star, “I’ve never considered the Britts to be true journalists.”
This is an odd statement coming from a man who, in 2010, spent hours in our Press Room in St. Clair County, even breaking bread with us and our staff.
This is also peculiar for a man who, in 2012, encouraged us to bring the Alabama Political Reporter to the State House, even allowing us to use his conference room to conduct interviews with various State leaders.
This is an extremely, disingenuous comment from a man who sat with me and my wife in the RSA cafeteria in 2012, and asked us to work “closely” with him to explain his vision for streamlining government.
And even more surprising, all of this, coming from a man who once called us his friends.
Marsh wants the Senate to define who is a journalist so as to determine who may receive Press credentials at the State House. The fact that a partisan elected official should take it upon himself, the sole right to define a journalist, should send warning signs and sirens to every editor, publisher and reporter in this State.
Marsh had no problem with the Alabama Political Reporter until we uncovered his lies about soliciting money from the Poarch Creek Indians. Since then, he has sought to retaliate against this publication for his own personal gain.
Of course, Marsh is also carrying water for his boss, Speaker Mike Hubbard.
Marsh may not be guilty of overtly helping Hubbard with his dirty deeds, but he stood by, silently, while Hubbard lined his pockets using his office for personal gain.
Hubbard wisely does not want to be the face of this coup, especially after being charged with 23 counts of felony public corruption, many which were first reported here at the Alabama Political Reporter.
There is little doubt that Marsh and Hubbard want to ban this publication from the State House. This has been confirmed by several Senators and Representatives who are concerned about the far reaching ramifications of this action.
Perhaps this is not that big of a shock coming from Marsh, who has walked lockstep with Hubbard, a man who stands charged by the State with Felony acts.
Marsh has been so close to the Hubbard indictments that he had to reassure the voters in his district that he himself would not be arrested or charged in connection with the public corruption probe being conducted by the Attorney General’s Office.
Marsh, like Hubbard, has touted “transparency” in government while they pass legislation under the cover of darkness.
Sadly, Marsh, like his boss, will never allow facts to stand in the way of their personal agenda.
Marsh also told the Star that he tries, “very hard to make sure the press room is open to journalists.” This is another questionable statement because, with the $200,000 in renovations to the Senate Chamber, Marsh has actually downsized the space available to reporters. In the redesign of the Senate Chambers, Marsh has taken over one entire Press Box to give Senators a private viewing room from which to watch the proceeding on the floor of the House by video feed.
The members of the Capital Press Corp, who cover the Senate, know that Marsh is not expanding press availability, he is limiting it.
Marsh at Hubbard’s command wants to define journalist in such a way as to deny access to the Alabama Political Reporter. What is to keep them from redefining the rules next year to target the reporters at al.com?
Hubbard, Marsh and others in the Republican controlled Legislature have tried to make the case that we work for the Alabama Education Association. This is a lie.
We received paid advertisement from the AEA, just like we have received paid advertising from, Gov. Robert Bentley, Alabama Conservation, PCI, Troy University and others.
Would Hubbard or Marsh say that al.com is a mouthpiece for the Southeast Alabama Gas District (SEAGD) who runs advertising on its site? SEAGD is named in the Hubbard indictments, as well as APCI, whose CEO has written editorials for al.com.
Would these two accuse H. Brandt Ayers the Chairman and Publisher of the Anniston Star of being in the pocket of ALFA, because they advertise on its pages?
This is just a smokescreen to hide their attempt to control the message by killing the messenger.
Marsh is a disgrace, and if his fellow Senators had any courage, they would oust him from his office as Pro Tem for this and the fact that he has been the faithful lap-dog of Hubbard.
Marsh and Hubbard are sending a message to every reporter in the State:
Cross us and be damned.
You say it can’t happen to us.
That is what Niemöller and others like him thought before they came for them.