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Marsh’s Call To Define Journalist Causes Blow-Back from Conservatives

Bill Britt

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By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

In an opinion piece published by several newspapers throughout the State, the presumptive Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh wrote that, “Freedom of the press is not going anywhere in Alabama.”

(See article here.)

Marsh is responding to the negative attention he has received after saying he wanted to define who is a journalist.

Now, after the publication of his editorial, things are getting even more heated for the Senator, with the conservative Daily Caller and The Liberty Papers both taking issue with his proposed actions.

Under the headline, “Meet The ‘Conservative Champion’ Who Wants To Quash Press Freedom,” the Daily Caller takes Marsh to task for wanting to license journalists…

(see article here.)

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…while the Liberty Papers suggest that Marsh would exclude Thomas Paine and other patriots from the Alabama press room.

(See article here.)

More than one reporter has questioned how Marsh is fit to oversee the Alabama Senate, when he is not willing to uphold the US Constitution?

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Marsh says that he asked, “the Secretary of the Senate to put together a definition of what qualifies as a legitimate journalist.”

The Alabama Political Reporter, along with the Anniston Star and the Montgomery Advertiser, have questioned Marsh’s mission to define who is and who is not a journalist.

Marsh says he is concerned about what might happen “IF partisan bloggers requested official credentials.”

Marsh is also concerned that, “Allowing agenda-driven bloggers the same access and legitimacy as serious, long-established and unbiased reporters, could soon create a confusing, circus-like atmosphere and blur the line between promoting opinions and reporting facts.”

Who are these “partisan bloggers” and “agenda-driven bloggers” that are causing Marsh such great concern?

He seems worried that these hypothetical partisan and agenda-driven bloggers, “blur the line between promoting opinions and reporting facts.”

(It is important to note that Marsh is setting-up a number of straw men, this becomes even more interesting at the end of his piece, because there he will change to another straw man altogether to add credibility to his argument)

He never identifies these partisan and agenda-driven blogger and doesn’t supply an example of reports that “blur the line between promoting opinions and reporting facts.”

Marsh says he doesn’t want these unnamed bloggers having the same “legitimacy as serious, long-established and unbiased reporters.”

But, Marsh doesn’t want serious, long-established and unbiased reporters, he wants reporters who will not challenge the State’s Republican super majority. That is why Marsh, along with his partner, Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, have cowed the press with threats or curried their favor with special access.

He says that, “Just as elected officials are accountable to the people they represent, so, too, are journalists accountable to an editor.”

This is terrible logic.

Anyone who has witnessed the actions of the Republican super majority over the last four years knows that they are beholden to the “money men” and not to the people of Alabama. It is Hubbard, Marsh and former Gov. Riley who supply the cash and call the tunes.

Marsh’s argument also falls apart because of the First Amendment and the Supreme Court’s confirming the rights of the “lone pamphleteer.” Would Marsh have demanded that Thomas Paine report to an editor to publish to be considered legitimate?

He states, “While a free and open press is vital and necessary, there are some who are attempting to hijack the profession by promoting raw, political agendas from the confines of the press gallery. This is not freedom of the press, it is deceitful and wrong.”

Again, who are these people, “attempting to hijack the profession by promoting raw, political agendas from the confines of the press gallery?”

This is a bold accusation, one that demands an answer as to the identities of these individuals, as well as proof of their deceit and wrong-doing.

Marsh told Tim Lockette of the Star that he only wanted “real” journalists to have access to the press rooms. He also told Lockette that he “Never considered the Britts to be real journalists.”

He then told Mary Sells of the Decatur Daily that this was not about Bill Britt.

Of course, we have ample proof that Marsh considered us journalists until we began publishing the unvarnished facts about his deceit and wrong doings with Hubbard.

Marsh also states, “Several past and present members of the Capitol Press Corps reporters have indicated to us that they do not fear this process because they agree that paid political operatives must not be allowed to disguise themselves as journalists. They join us in recognizing the importance of preserving the integrity of their profession.”

Remember I told you that he would change the nature of the straw man to bolster the credibility of his argument? Well, here it is! In this paragraph Marsh, says that “past and present members of the Capitol Press Corps…agree that paid political operatives must not be allowed to disguise themselves as journalists.”

He changed his focus from partisan bloggers/agenda-driven bloggers to “paid political operatives.” Like most politicos, Marsh prays that the citizens he represents have the reading comprehension skills of a six-year-old.

No member of the press corps would agree that “paid political operatives” should have access to the press rooms. That’s what lobbyists do, and if they pay enough, they can sit in Marsh’s office (In Hubbard’s case, he will want to be paid directly).

Marsh, and especially Hubbard, have tried to convince the political class that because the Alabama Political Reporter accepts advertising from the Alabama Education Association, we are not credible. We will take anyone’s advertising dollars, including Marsh’s and Hubbard’s. We would have more advertisers if businesses were not afraid of Hubbard and Marsh.

Of course, it is interesting to note that both SEAGD and APCI, two companies named in the Hubbard indictments, have had paid advertising and/or editorial space on al.com.

This is just one more straw man on which to hang a false premise.

Over the last two years, Marsh and Hubbard, along with a handful of sycophant followers, have sought to revoke our press credentials. Is this the legacy of those who came to power promising an end to public corruption?

Sadly, the Republican super majority in the House is led by a man charged with 23 Felony counts of public corruption and the Senate is led by a man who is stuck to his side like a Siamese twin.

The scriptures teach us to beware of “Scribes and Pharisees, Hypocrites!” who are like “whitewashed sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but are within, full of dead men’s bones and of all uncleanness.”

Heed the warning.

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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Education

Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program gets more national attention

The article analyzed a recent study that found that students who attended the program were “statistically significantly more likely” to be proficient in both math and reading than those who did not.

Micah Danney

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The state’s First Class Pre-K program gives children advantages in math and reading that last into middle school, far longer than the gains studied in other high-quality pre-K programs, according to an article published in the International Journal of Child Care and Education Policy.

The article analyzed a recent study that found that students who attended the program were “statistically significantly more likely” to be proficient in both math and reading than those who did not.

While programs like Head Start and Tennessee’s pre-K program have been shown to lead to significant educational improvements when children enter kindergarten, those benefits appear to experience a “fadeout” within a year. 

The new research followed students through the 7th grade. Further research should examine the persistence of benefits through high school, according to the article, which was published by researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, ThinkData and the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education.

The research “is reassuring and supports accountability for continued investments and expansion,” the article concluded.

The journal that featured the article is a publication of the National Institute of Early Education Research at Rutgers University.

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Congress

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne announces new chief of staff

Eddie Burkhalter

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U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne

Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama, on Friday announced that Seth Morrow will serve as his chief of staff.

“As we enter the last half of 2020, my office remains busy assisting constituents and advancing our legislative priorities. I know Seth shares my focus on finishing out my term in Congress strong, and he is well prepared to move into the Chief of Staff role,” Byrne said in a statement. “My staff and I will continue working hard every day to fight for the people of Southwest Alabama and advance our conservative agenda.”

Morrow is a native of Guntersville and has worked for Byrne since June 2014, serving as deputy chief of staff and communications director. 

“I am grateful for this opportunity, and I’m committed to ensuring our office maintains our first class service to the people of Southwest Alabama. Congressman Byrne has always had the hardest working team on Capitol Hill, and I know we will keep that tradition going,” Morrow said in a statement.

Morrow replaces Chad Carlough, who has held the position of Byrne’s chief of staff since March 2017. 

“Chad has very ably led our Congressional team over the last few years, and I join the people of Southwest Alabama in thanking him for his dedicated service to our state and our country,” Byrne said. 

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Crime

Alabama Department of Corrections investigating inmate death

Robert Earl Adams, 40, died on Aug. 5 and although no foul play is suspected, a department spokeswoman in a message to APR said the exact cause of death is pending an autopsy.

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The Alabama Department of Corrections is investigating the death of an inmate at the Donaldson Correctional Facility.

Robert Earl Adams, 40, died on Aug. 5 and although no foul play is suspected, a department spokeswoman in a message to APR said the exact cause of death is pending an autopsy.

“While Adams’ exact cause of death is pending the results of a full autopsy, at the time of his passing inmate Adams was not exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, was not under quarantine following direct exposure to an inmate or staff member who previously had tested positive, and was not in medical isolation as a result of a positive COVID-19 test,” said ADOC spokeswoman Samantha Rose in the message.

Because Adams was not exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, he had not been tested, Rose said.

An ADOC worker who contacted APR Friday morning about the death, who asked not to be identified for fear of repercussions from ADOC administrators, said it’s suspected that Adams may have overdosed after being given a cigarette laced with a drug.

Adams is at least the sixteenth state inmate to die this year from either homicide, suspected drug overdose or suicide. Additionally, fifteen inmates and two prison workers have died after testing positive for COVID-19.

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Alabama GOP chair: “We expect our elected officials to follow the law” after Dismukes arrest

“Will Dismukes matter: We expect our elected officials, regardless of Party, to follow the laws of our state and nation,” Alabama GOP chair Terry Lathan said on Twitter.

Brandon Moseley

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State Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, has been arrested on the charge of felony theft.

Alabama Republican Party Chair Terry Lathan said Thursday that Alabamians expect their leaders to follow the law. Her comments came in response to news that an arrest warrant had been issued for State Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, on the charge of felony theft.

“Will Dismukes matter: We expect our elected officials, regardless of Party, to follow the laws of our state and nation,” Lathan said on Twitter. “No one is immune to these standards. It is very disappointing to hear of these allegations. This is now a legal matter and it must run its course.”

Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, said Friday in a statement that Dismukes will get his day in court.

“As a former law enforcement officer, I have faith in the criminal justice process and trust that he will receive a full and fair hearing,” McCutcheon said. “Both Democrats and Republicans have been accused of similar crimes in the past, and we cannot tolerate such behavior whether the lawmaker involved has a D or an R beside their name.”

Dismukes has been charged by his former employer, a custom flooring company, of felony theft charges. Dismukes left that employer and started his own custom flooring company.

Dismukes, who is serving in his first term and is one of the youngest members of the Alabama Legislature, has been heavily criticized for his participation in a birthday party for Confederate Lt. General Nathan Bedford Forrest in Selma. Forrest was also the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

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The party in Selma occurred the same week that Congressman John Lewis’s funeral events were happening in Selma. Dismukes resigned his position at Valley Baptist Church when the Southern Baptists threatened to disassociate the Prattville Church if they retained Dismukes. He has defiantly refused to step down from the Legislature, but if convicted of a felony, he would be automatically removed from office.

Both Democrats and Republicans have called for Dismukes to resign from the Alabama House of Representatives over his being the chaplain of the Prattville Sons of Confederate Veterans and his Facebook post lauding Forrest. The investigation into the theft predates the controversies surrounding Dismukes’s glorification of the Confederacy and Forrest.

Republican State Sen. Clyde Chambliss, who also represents Prattville, has called on Dismukes to resign.

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“Since first being elected in 1996, I’ve had a policy of not publicly criticizing other elected officials, but at this time I am making an exception since Rep. Dismukes is MY state representative. He does not represent my views or the views of the vast majority of people of District 88,” Chambliss said. “The post is bad enough, the timing is even worse, but the real problem is that an elected official in 2020 would attend a celebration of the life of someone that led a group that terrorized and killed other human beings. He has had 24 hours to understand why people are so upset, but his interview on WSFA a few moments ago confirms that he is lacking in understanding and judgment — he should resign immediately.”

Alabama Democratic Party Chairman State Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, has repeatedly called for Dismukes to resign from the Alabama House of Representatives.

The Alabama Democratic Party recently said in a statement, “Will Dismukes is morally unfit for office. Republicans and Democrats statewide seem to agree. Unfortunately, despite the mounting calls for his immediate resignation, Will intends to stay in office and seek re-election without penalty from the Republican Party.”

“While Alabama Republicans hope this will be a distant memory when Dismukes runs for re-election in 2022, we are not going to let him off the hook,” the ADP wrote. “The Alabama Democratic Party is going to leverage every tool we have to send Will packing when he comes up for re-election in two years.”

“In our darkest hours in life there is still light in Christ!” Dismukes wrote on social media Wednesday. “As the storm continues to blow with heavy force, there is yet a peace that this too shall pass. I guess sometimes we find out if we have built our house on sand or the solid rock of Christ. Psalm 23.”

When Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, was indicted on 21 charges of felony ethics violations, he did not resign and actually remained speaker until a jury of his peers in Lee County convicted him on 12 counts.

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