Warning: This story quotes offensive language.
The same editor who penned an editorial calling for the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan and elaborated on those views by calling for lynchings of Democratic politicians has a long track record of penning racist, homophobic and sexists editorials in his small-town newspaper.
The Democrat-Reporter, a community newspaper in West Alabama, published the editorial on Feb. 14 entitled “Klan needs to ride again.” In it, the paper’s editor, Goodloe Sutton, called for the Klan to “raid the gated communities” of Democrats and “Democrats in the Republican Party” who are “plotting to raise taxes in Alabama.”
I posted a copy of the story on Twitter yesterday. Fellow APR writer Mikayla Burns and I found the editorial in a print copy of last week’s issue of the paper. Burns works with me at The Auburn Plainsman.
Sutton’s editorial immediately drew ire, and he is facing calls to resign over the content he published in the editorial.
“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,” Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, tweeted Tuesday. “These comments are deeply offensive and inappropriate, especially in 2019. Mr. Sutton should apologize and resign.”
Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, echoed that call, as did Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama.
“The rhetoric displayed by the Democrat-Reporter is disturbing, disgusting, and entirely unacceptable. I urge the newspaper to issue an apology and the publisher to resign from his duties. We cannot tolerate this sort of repulsive speech, particularly from our fourth estate.”
Sutton has often been praised for keeping up a small-town, family newspaper and for investigative reporting that unearthed corruption at the Marengo County Sheriff’s Department. That story won numerous awards and received national acclaim.
But after a review of dozens of issues of The Democrat-Reporter, it’s clear the racist editorial last week was not a one-off event. It’s common.
The paper, published in the small town of Linden, Alabama, has a history of publishing a wide range of offensive editorials. The racist, sexist and homophobic content runs the gamut from a 2018 defense of an Alabama student who used the n-word to a piece in 2016 entitled “Need cotton pickers.”
The editorials appear to be more the racist ramblings of a single man rather than the thought-out opinion pieces that normally grace the columns of newspaper editorial pages.
After I posted a photo of the editorial on Twitter, The Montgomery Advertiser called Sutton for comment. He confirmed he wrote the editorial. He went further, falsely claiming former slaves were among the members of the Klan. And further still, suggesting the revived Klan could “clean up D.C.” by lynching Democratic leaders.
“We’ll get the hemp ropes out, loop them over a tall limb and hang all of them,” he told the Advertiser. He went on to compare the KKK to the NAACP, saying, “The Klan wasn’t violent until they needed to be.”
I’ve contacted Sutton and the paper for comment but haven’t heard back.
The University of Southern Mississippi said in a statement that Mr. Sutton has been removed from the school’s Mass Communication and Journalism Hall of Fame.
“The School of Communication strongly condemns Mr. Sutton’s remarks as they are antithetical to all that we value as scholars of journalism, the media, and human communication,” the statement read. “Our University’s values of social responsibility and citizenship, inclusion and diversity, and integrity and civility are the foundation upon which we have built our School and its programs.”
One needn’t look far back into the paper’s archives to find similarly offensive content.
In a 2013 editorial condemning former State Sen. Hank Sanders and State Rep. Alvin Holmes with the title “Hank, Alvin continue racial hatred,” Sutton wrote that “Slavery was a good lesson for the Jews. They didn’t act right, so God punished them by letting others conquer and enslave them.” He went on, “There are stories which publishing companies won’t print about how the black people were banished into the wilderness of Africa because God hated them. They had no word in their language for love. They did have seven words to describe how to kill an unborn baby. (Reminds us of America today).” Parenthesis retained.
In another editorial, Sutton wrote that President Donald Trump should “do like Dems” and pay off black leaders to get what votes he can. He wrote that black voters would be upset about the discontinuation “free food stamps, disability checks, crazy checks, baby checks, low rent and no rent housing, free health insurance, free General Motors cars and trucks, and a lot of other stuff that we the public do not know anything about.” So, he wrote, Trump should pay off black leaders and “get what votes he can.”
In a July 2018 editorial, he wrote “Had a Ku Kluxer lit in on Barack Obama like Maxine Waters has attacked Donald Trump, the establishment would have beat its plow shares back into swords and ravished the South again. … [Waters] was not taught how to respect anything other than some African or Democrat.”
Racism is not the only content that has made its way into the Democrat-Reporter over the years, Sutton has called for public hangings and bombing Muslims, written anti-Semitic tropes and advocated for a return to the times when women weren’t allowed to speak in church.
In 2018, he wrote, “Let’s give these opioid addicts six weeks to quit. Let’s give the illegal drug dealers six weeks before we hang them on the courthouse lawn.”
In another, he called former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a “fat witch (or female dog) who wants to be the first woman president.” Parenthesis retained.
Sutton has written a number of editorials that used racist language while criticizing black NFL players. In a 2017 editorial, he wrote, “Some of the news programs are making a big to-do about black football players kneeling in the stadiums. That’s what black folks were taught to do two hundred years ago, kneel before a white man. … Let them kneel!”
Another NFL editorial said “foreigners to America brought in HIV, AIDs, etc.”
And the offensive content isn’t just limited to the opinion page.
When a 9-year-old girl from Linden died by suicide after falling victim to racist bullying, the paper published stories questioning whether the racist bullying actually happened. Another tone-deaf headline read, “Westside Elementary 9-year-old from Linden ends her misery, life.”
The paper isn’t published online, only in print, so it’s no surprise this content hasn’t made headlines outside the borders of Marengo County. The paper only had a circulation of a few thousand copies a week in 2015. Following industry trends, it’s likely dropped more since then.
Sutton has attacked women other than Clinton, too. He called Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who last year accused then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault during their teens, a “tramp.” Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Maxine Waters, Sutton wrote, were “loose lipped females.”
He went on, “This gives a lot of credence for Peter writing that women should not be allowed to talk in church.”
He’s attacked members of the LGBT community, too. In 2015, he pitted LGBT people against the black community by accusing gay people of “taking the spotlight away from the blacks who wanted to march across the Pettus Bridge in Selma.”
“Of course, women appreciate the effeminate appeals of those who are closely aligned with their own way of thinking,” Sutton wrote, arguing gay men have had outsized influence over western art and culture.
In a 2016 editorial, he criticized Republicans as “sweet little no-nothing men who listen to homosexuals and fat women complain about Trump.”
The Alabama Political Reporter published a story last year in which several former employees of the Anniston Star accused H. Brandt Ayers, the then-chairman of the newspaper’s board and its former publisher, of sexually assaulting them decades ago.
After we broke that story, Sutton took notice.
He wrote a month later in February, “Noticed last week a newspaper friend got alleged as assaulting female employees.” The title of the story: “Don’t even get close to women.” He continued, “When a woman tempts a man and he doesn’t snap up the bait, the woman gets upset and speaks disparagingly of the man. Should he accept her invitation, he can later be allegedly guilty of sexual assault.”
Sutton has been at The Democrat-Reporter since 1964. He inherited it from his father. He has worked there for years as the editor-publisher, meaning he both owns the paper and manages its editorial content. The Sutton family has operated the paper since 1917.
He and his late wife, Jean Sutton, have received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award for their stories on the Marengo County sheriff. In 2007, he was inducted into the University of Southern Mississippi’s Mass Communications and Journalism Hall of Fame.
In 2009, he received the Distinguished Community Journalist Award from Auburn.
The chair of Auburn’s Journalism Advisory Council said Tuesday its members voted by email today to strip the award. The same award was given to Ayers and has since been removed from the school’s website.
The University of Southern Mississippi also responded quickly to the coverage.
“Within the last few hours, the School of Communication at the University of Southern Mississippi learned of Mr. Goodloe Sutton’s call for violence and the return of the Ku Klux Klan,” their statement read. “Mr. Sutton’s subsequent rebuttals and attempts at clarification only reaffirm the misguided and dangerous nature of his comments.”
Linden is home to less than 2,000 people, and its demographics are essentially split between African-Americans and whites.
Local state lawmakers Sen. Bobby Singleton and Rep. A.J. McCampbell, Democrats from neighboring Greensboro and Livingston, told AL.com Monday that they weren’t surprised by the editorial.
“He’s been making those kind of racist epithets for a long time,” Singleton said.
Both said they don’t subscribe to the paper.
Jones tweeted the editorial was “disgusting” and Sutton should resign now.
OMG! What rock did this guy crawl out from under? This editorial is absolutely disgusting & he should resign -NOW!
I have seen what happens when we stand by while people-especially those with influence- publish racist, hateful views.
Words matter. Actions matter. Resign now! https://t.co/V1V1vxDBKH
— Doug Jones (@DougJones) February 19, 2019
Redemption not revenge drives Tuberville supporter
It would make for a great political story if Edgar McGraw hated Jeff Sessions. In fact, it would be the kind of legendary story of revenge that TV movies are built around.
This man, Edgar McGraw, is arrested on drug distribution charges in 1986 and prosecuted by then-U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions. Sessions takes everything from McGraw and gives gleeful media interviews bragging about the arrest and seizures of McGraw’s property.
McGraw gets out of prison, rebuilds his life and becomes a respected, successful business owner. All the while, biding his time until the day he can exact revenge upon Sessions.
One day in 2020, he sees his chance: A former college football coach in a football-crazed state is running against Sessions for U.S. Senate. McGraw throws some money to the coach, hosts a fundraiser for him.
And the coach does the unthinkable. He upsets the 30-year politician. With McGraw’s help, Jeff Sessions’ career is over.
But real life ain’t like the movies.
And in real life, Edgar McGraw has none of these dreams of revenge. He holds no ill will. He wasn’t gleeful the night Sessions lost, instead he was glad his friend Tommy Tuberville won. And he didn’t back Tuberville because he was running against Sessions, but because McGraw and Tuberville were friends long before Tuberville dipped a toe into politics.
That’s life, I guess. You go looking for a revenge story and end up with a redemption story.
“(The conviction) is water under the bridge to me,” McGraw said. “I made my fair share of mistakes, I paid the price, and I have moved on with my life. I believe every single person makes mistakes in life, but how you respond to those mistakes and live life afterward is what really matters. As Dr. Tony Evans says ‘everyone is going to get knocked down in life in one way or another, what’s important is how you get back up.’
“I never look back, that is just my personality. Just like you don’t drive a car looking in the rear-view mirror, I am always looking forward.”
I first heard about McGraw’s history a week ago, when someone sent me photos of Tuberville speaking at an event, McGraw standing by his side. McGraw was labeled a “felon” in a description with the picture, and that piqued my interest.
I read through a few newspaper articles about his arrest in the 1980s on drug distribution charges, and I thought it was possibly one of the craziest things I’ve come across in quite some time.
Basically, the story is this: McGraw, who was a successful businessman in Camden even in the 1980s, conspired with a handful of people to fly about $2 million worth of marijuana from Jamaica to a private air strip in Camden. The weed was going to McGraw’s farm, according to court records, where it would have been distributed and sold.
It never made it.
Drug dealers apparently aren’t great at physics, and $2 million in 1980 bought a lot of marijuana — approximately 1,400 pounds — that needed to be equally distributed around the small plane. Instead, according to media reports, the guys in Jamaica — McGraw wasn’t one of them — failed to secure the load and it all shifted to the tail of the plane. The plane crashed into a marsh on takeoff.
Still, Sessions and the U.S. Attorney’s Office were able to build a case with several informants and by flipping witnesses. And they went hard after McGraw, who maintained that he had a limited role. The federal jury that convicted McGraw of conspiracy to distribute also acquitted him of conspiring to import the weed, so there was obviously some gray area.
Regardless, Sessions went after McGraw’s property, utilizing recent and broad changes to asset seizure laws in the late-1980s that allowed prosecutors to tie virtually any property to drug money and then seize it. The federal government, with little evidence, took McGraw’s motel, the Southern Inn in Camden. It was one of the biggest asset seizures in the country at the time.
McGraw ended up being sentenced to 15 years in prison. He served less than half of that and prison records show he was released in 1992.
When I learned of McGraw’s history, I tweeted a couple of the newspaper clippings and speculated that McGraw had thoroughly enjoyed Tuberville ending Sessions’ political career. Because, I mean, Sessions took the guy’s motel — for marijuana that didn’t even get here.
He has to hate him, right?
Then I emailed McGraw to ask if he’d be willing to talk to me about it. I expected one of two things to occur: Either he would ignore me altogether or he’d accept the interview and express his great personal satisfaction.
He did neither.
Instead, McGraw told me the same story that he’s been telling at the Christmas party for Camden work release inmates. He volunteers with a Christian ministry that works with the prisoners. And each year, McGraw, who now is best known as part owner of the McGraw-Webb Chevrolet dealership in Camden, stands up in front of those inmates and lets them know that there is a pathway to redemption. To a better life. To a happy life.
“What happened coming up on almost 35 years ago, seems like a lifetime ago,” McGraw said. “My faith grew immeasurably during those years and the Lord has blessed me immensely since. I have been happily married for 27 years and I have three wonderful children; 26, 25 and 21 years old. I would want people to know to not let the past mistakes in life mold you. Brokenness can be a breakthrough.
“I feel like I am one of the most blessed people in the world and I give God all the credit. I would hope that I would be thought of as someone who came back home, worked very hard and served his community, church, and family to the absolute best of my God given ability.”
As far as his dealings with Sessions, McGraw said he’s had very little. While he clearly disagrees with Sessions’ decisions in his case — all McGraw would say is that he’d leave that up to Sessions to answer for — he said he’s spoken to the former U.S. AG just once in the past three decades. That meeting came at an Auburn basketball game, where McGraw introduced himself and reminded Sessions of their past. McGraw said the conversation was cordial and lasted only a few minutes.
He swears he holds no ill will towards Session at this point. His support of Tuberville had nothing to do with his history, or even politics really. Records show McGraw has donated to only one campaign in his life — Tuberville’s. And that came about because the two are old friends.
“My relationship with Tommy Tuberville began sometime while he was coaching at Auburn,” McGraw said. “We became friends with the Tubervilles as our sons became close friends while attending Auburn University and our friendship has grown since. Our family made our first contribution to Tuberville in April of 2019. I want to be very clear that my support of Tommy Tuberville was only influenced by our friendship and his political views and had nothing to do with Jeff Sessions.”
And maybe that’s for the best.
2020 has more than its fair share of nasty political stories, revenge stories and just plain ol’ dirtiness. Maybe a good story of redemption is something we could all use at this point. Maybe what we need to hear is the message that McGraw gives to those 100 or so inmates each year at Christmas.
“I strive to give (them) the hope that whatever they have done in the past does not have to limit their future,” McGraw said. “I learned to take nothing for granted and that every single day is a gift from above.”
Merrill gives guidance on straight party, write-in voting
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill issued guidance Wednesday on straight party and write-in voting.
“Voters who wish to vote straight party for all of the Democratic or Republican candidates on their ballot may do so by filling in the bubble next to their party preference at the top of their ballot,” Merrill explained in a statement.
“If a voter wishes to vote for any candidate outside of the selected party, however, he or she may do so by filling in the bubble next to the preferred candidate’s name. In doing so, the candidate(s) voted on outside of the voter’s designated party ballot will receive the vote for that particular race.
“In addition, if a voter wishes to write-in a candidate, he or she may do so by filling in the bubble next to the box marked ‘Write-in’ and then printing the name of the preferred candidate on the designated line.
“Write-in votes must be hand-written and not stamped or otherwise artificially applied to the ballot.”
Sample ballots for the Nov. 3 general election are available online.
Airbus celebrates five years of passenger jet manufacturing in Alabama
The Airbus manufacturing facility in Alabama has now been manufacturing aircraft for five years in the state of Alabama. The first Airbus passenger jet manufactured in Alabama was an A321 christened “BluesMobile” on Sept. 14, 2015. It went to Jet Blue.
Since then, 180 A320 family aircraft have been built in Alabama for eight airline customers. The Alabama-made passenger jets have flown 60 million passengers 500 million miles, according to Airbus.
“When we announced our intent to build A320 family aircraft in the United States, and to locate that facility in Mobile, Alabama, we also stated our intent to be a good neighbor, to create jobs and opportunities, and to help strengthen the U.S. aerospace industry,” said president and CEO of Airbus Americas C. Jeffrey Knittel.
The Airbus facility at the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley directly employs more than 1,000 people. Earlier this year, Airbus opened a second assembly line at the complex that produces A220 aircraft. The operation represents an investment of around $1 billion.
“The achievements of the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing team over these past five years are just the beginning,” Knittel said. “We are proud to call Mobile our American aircraft manufacturing home, and we look forward to many more years of partnership with the community, our customers and suppliers.”
“Airbus has announced a series of expansions over the past few years that have placed Alabama on the map as a leader in the aerospace industry. Business analysts predict that by 2023, Alabama will be number 4 or 5 in the world for the production of commercial aircraft,” said economic developer Nicole Jones. “This is a testament to teamwork and strategic partnerships between the public and private sector as well as the quality, dedicated, and skilled workforce Alabamians provide and companies need. Alabama has a history of leadership in aerospace and aviation, and Airbus is an international pioneer in the industry. We are thankful to Airbus team for their continued commitment to our state, nation, and the world.”
This has been an extremely difficult year for the airline industry due to far less business travel, decreased tourist travel and many nations imposing travel restrictions for people from other countries due to the threat of the coronavirus. Many airlines are asking Congress to provide more stimulus dollars.
Alabama Gulf Coast beaches remain closed for now
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced that beaches will remain closed for now due to ongoing repair and cleanup efforts in the wake of Hurricane Sally.
“Working closely with Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft and Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon, as well as Commissioner Billy Joe Underwood, the governor has agreed to keep Baldwin County’s beaches closed until Friday, October 2nd,” the governor’s office said in a statement. “This will allow those communities additional time to get their beaches ready for public enjoyment in a safe, responsible manner.”
Mobile County beaches might open earlier than that.
“Likewise, the governor has been in touch with Mayor Jeff Collier, and she is prepared to amend the beach closure order for Mobile County when he signals that Dauphin Island is ready to reopen their beaches,” the governor’s office said in a statement. “At the present time, all Alabama beaches remain closed until further notice.”
Hurricane Sally came ashore near Gulf Shores on Sept. 16 as a category two hurricane with 105 mile per hour winds. Numerous homes, businesses and farms have been destroyed and many more have seen serious damage.
“As of Wednesday night, approx. 37,000 cubic yards of Hurricane Sally debris (equivalent to roughly 1,700 truck loads worth) has been picked up in Orange Beach since Sunday (4 days),” the city of Orange Beach announced. “Kudos to our debris contractor CrowderGulf.”
“I spent Sunday afternoon meeting with senior staff and I believe we will need some time to get our buildings safe for children to return,” said Baldwin County Schools Superintendent Eddie Taylor in a letter to parents. “We live in a very large county. Power may be on in your area and your school may not have any damage, but we cannot open schools unless all schools can open. Our pacing guides, state testing, meal and accountability requirements are based on the system, not individual schools.”
“We have schools without power and for which we do not expect power until later this week,” Taylor said. “In this new age, we need internet and communications which are currently down so we cannot run any system tests. We have physical damage at our schools including some with standing water, collapsed ceilings and blown out windows. We have debris on our properties and debris blocking our transportation teams from picking up students. All of this must be resolved before we can successfully re-open.”
“If everything goes as planned, I expect we will welcome back students on Wednesday, September 30,” Taylor said. “Prior to returning students to school, we will hold two teacher work days to get our classrooms and our lessons plans back on track.”