The editor and publisher of a small town newspaper who called for the resurgence of the KKK and for the lynching of Democratic politicians in an editorial published last week is stepping down after several days of backlash.
In an phone interview with the Alabama Political Reporter, the editor and publisher of The Democrat-Reporter, Goodloe Sutton, doubled down on the views he espoused in his editorial but said he is old and is taking this opportunity to move on. He said he stepped down Thursday.
“I’m going to drink beer and sex young women,” Sutton said. “I am not going to do anything with it [the paper]. I’m going to be a dead beat — an out-of-work dead beat.”
Check the date. A paper published this in 2019. Wow. pic.twitter.com/jmVSTO61lX
— Chip Brownlee (@ByChipBrownlee) February 18, 2019
Sutton has a long track record of penning racist, homophobic and sexist editorials in his small-town newspaper. His last paper published Thursday included letters to the editor on the front page praising his decision to run last week’s editorial. One of the letters is from a self-described Klansman.
The Democrat-Reporter, a community newspaper in West Alabama, published the editorial on Feb. 14 entitled “Klan needs to ride again.” In it, 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.”
The editorial and Sutton’s response to the Montgomery Advertiser sparked national and international backlash.
A review of dozens of issues of The Democrat-Reporter found last week’s racist editorial not to be 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.”
Sutton has long considered selling the paper. He said Friday that he “does not have a paper to sell” now. APR has not confirmed if he has formally sold the business. He was reached at the Democrat-Reporter office.
Sutton said he was handing over the publication to Elecia Dexter, who has worked at the publication. A press release from the paper says she will be the new editor-publisher. She is an African-American woman. NBC News reported Sutton will retain formal ownership of the paper.
“Jan. 31, 2019, I turned 80 years old,” Sutton said. “I put it [the newspaper] on the market just as Obama came into office. He really fouled up everything. I couldn’t even get anybody to talk to me when he was president. So I guess you might say, ‘Obama happened to me.’ Now I have a chance to get out, and I’m getting out.”
When asked if he regretted writing the racist editorial, Sutton said, “I don’t know, that was a good one.”
Sutton doubled down again and said he did not call for lynching — that instead, he was simply calling for executions.
In an interview with the Montgomery Advertiser Monday, Sutton did, in fact, call for the lynching of Democratic politicians. Sutton told the Advertiser, “we’ll get the hemp ropes out, loop them over a tall limb and hang all of them.”
Lynching, by definition, is the extrajudicial killing of a person: “to put to death (as by hanging) by mob action without legal approval or permission,” according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary. With references to the Klan and the racial language of his editorial and comments to the Advertiser, he clearly called for lynching.
He used offensive language to describe Melissa Brown, the reporter at the Montgomery Advertiser to whom he made the comments about lynching, saying she “batted her eyes and said she didn’t understand. I told her I know she didn’t understand.” He also questioned her age and college education.
Sutton is known locally as a person who inflames more than he informs.
Aside from his racist, sexist and homophobic editorials, his paper has a history of racially charged news headlines. Locals say they largely ignore the paper, especially when Sutton uses controversy and outrage to try to sell papers.
“I don’t buy the newspaper, and I don’t know anybody who does,” said Kathryn Friday, a former mayor of Linden. “He just has crossed so many lines. He’s advocated killing federal officials. That’s a line you don’t cross. The Klan thing is bad enough, but he is also advocating, ‘Let’s go out and kill somebody.'”
Friday said he writes the editorials for shock value and doesn’t think about the effects they might have on the small community fewer than 2,000 people.
“His newspaper has a negative impact on our community,” Friday said. “If anybody is thinking about locating in your area, they read the newspapers. … Most people don’t pay any attention to him, but they were offended by this and upset by this.”
The paper has lost readership and circulation in recent years. In 2015, the paper had about 3,000 subscribers, according to the Advertiser. Following industry trends, the paper’s numbers have likely dropped even more. The paper is now renting a building after losing its old office and printing presses. It’s printed out of town.
The University of Southern Mississippi said in a statement that Sutton has been removed from the school’s Mass Communication and Journalism Hall of Fame. Auburn University’s journalism school revoked a distinguished community journalism award given to Sutton in 2009.
“He’s virtually lost everything,” Friday said.
Friday said she regrets the negative image the story has attributed to Linden.
“I think it puts us in a bad light,” Friday said. “People here don’t want to see that kind of thing. We like to get along and try to work together to get things done.”
This story is developing and will be updated.
Jones campaign director blasts Tuberville for saying $600 “too much” for out-of-work Alabamians
The communications director for U.S. Sen. Doug Jones’s re-election campaign on Wednesday called out Tommy Tuberville for saying that $600 in emergency unemployment aid was too much for Alabamians.
“Tommy Tuberville once again proves he’s out of touch with Alabama. When he ‘resigned’ from his job as a football coach he took a $5.1 million payout for himself. To this day, he receives $800 a week in State Retirement funds for a coaching job he ‘quit’ in 2008,” said Owen Kilmer, communications Director for Jones’s Senate campaign, in a statement Wednesday.
“But he says $600 in emergency benefits is ‘way too much’ for people in Alabama who lost their jobs in this crisis through no fault of their own. Tuberville says $600 is ‘way too much’ to help people put food on the table and pay utilities,” Kilmer continued. “No wonder, when asked about how to handle this crisis, he said ‘I wouldn’t have a clue.’ It’s true. He doesn’t.”
Tuberville, the Republican Senate nominee, is trying to unseat Jones in the November general election. Jones has called the former Auburn football coach and first-time political candidate an “unprepared hyper-partisan.”
Alabama Power is returning $100 million to customers
The Alabama Public Service Commission approved a plan Tuesday to credit Alabama Power Company customers on their October bills. The move returns approximately $100 million to Alabama Power Company customers.
“Putting money back into the pockets of hard-working Alabamians is one of the ways we can help on the road to recovery,” Public Service Commission President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh said on social media. “Alabama Power to refund $100 million to customers.”
The typical Alabama Power customer will receive a $25 credit on their October bill. The newly approved credit is on top of a 3 percent rate reduction that customers are already enjoying in 2020. This previous rate cuts and the October credit amount to about $300 million in savings for Alabama Power customers this year.
“We appreciate the commission voting today to expedite this credit for our customers,” said Richard Hutto, Alabama Power’s vice president of regulatory affairs.
The global economic collapse due to the COVID-19 pandemic has hurt people across Alabama. It has also dramatically lowered fuel costs for Alabama Power Company’s plants.
A typical residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month is expected to receive a credit of $25. Customers who use more energy will receive a larger credit. Customers who use less power receive a smaller credit but had a smaller bill to begin with. Adjustments to fuel costs are typically calculated at the end of the year, with savings passed to customers beginning in January, but due to the economic downturn and pandemic-related job losses, Alabama Power and the PSC are rushing that money to Alabama families and businesses.
“Many of our customers have been hurt by COVID-19. We hope this credit will provide some additional relief at this difficult time,” Hutto explained.
The 3 percent rate reduction, that took effect in January, was based on earlier estimates of lower costs for fuel and other expenses for 2020. The rate reduction alone equates to about a $4.50-per-month reduction for the typical residential customer.
“Our employees are working every day to keep costs low while providing industry-leading reliability for our customers,” Hutto added.
Alabama Power said in a statement that their total retail price is below the national average and has been for decades. When adjusted for inflation, the price customers pay for electricity is lower today than it was 30 years ago.
Alabama Power has been assisting customers in other ways during the COVID-19 outbreak. Since the start of the pandemic, the company has suspended disconnects and late payment fees for customers hurt by the coronavirus.
Cavanaugh is seeking another term as president of the Commission.
“It is crucial that we have strong pro-jobs conservatives supporting President Trump’s agenda at all levels of government,” Cavanaugh said on social media.
Mimi Penhale, Russell Bedsole advance to GOP runoff in HD49
Republican voters in House District 49 went to the polls Tuesday to nominate their next representative. Miriam “Mimi” Penhale and Russell Bedsole received the most votes and will advance on to the special Republican primary runoff scheduled for Sept. 1.
“What an incredible day!” Bedsole said. “Thank you friends and family for your love, support, and prayers. We had a great showing today and we are on to a runoff. Looking forward to getting back out and winning this thing on September 1st.”
“THANK YOU Bibb, Chilton and Shelby County!” Penhale said on social media. “I’m looking forward to earning your vote, again, on September 1 in the runoff.”
The election was very tight between the two. Mimi Penhale received 829 votes, or 31.4 percent of the votes. Russell Bedsole received 919 votes, or 34.8 percent.
The rest of the votes was split among the other four candidates. James Dean received less than 1 percent, Chuck Martin received 24.3 percent, Jackson McNeely received 2.16 percent and Donna Strong received 6.71 percent.
There were 2,639 votes cast on Tuesday. Voter turnout was 8.88 percent.
Bedsole serves on the Alabaster City Council, Pemhale is the director of the Shelby County Legislative office.
The eventual winner of the Republican nomination will face Democrat Cheryl Patton in the special general election on Tuesday, Nov. 17.
The vacancy in House District 49 was created when State Rep. April Weaver, R-Briarfield, announced her resignation to accept an appointment as a regional director of the Department of Health and Human Services.
House District 49 consists of portions of Bibb, Shelby and Chilton Counties. The winner will serve the remainder of Weaver’s term, which ends in late 2022.
Jimmy Reynolds, Ben Robbins qualify as Republicans for Alabama House District 33
The Alabama Republican Party on Tuesday closed its candidate qualifying period for the Alabama House of Representatives District 33 special primary election scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 6.
Jimmy Reynolds Jr. and Ben Robbins have qualified to run for the District 33 seat in the special Republican primary.
“Our district is a wonderful place to raise a family,” Robbins said in a statement. “We owe it to our children and grandchildren to leave them with more opportunities than we had, and I believe fresh ideas, bold leadership and true conservative values are the foundation of that success.”
Robbins serves on multiple community boards, including Habitat for Humanity, as co-president of Leadership Sylacauga and serves the Talladega Rotary Club as a past-president. He is also active with several local Chambers of Commerce and the Sylacauga Young Professionals. He is a seventh-generation Talladega County resident and the grandson of former Childersburg Mayor Robert Limbaugh. He and his wife Melanie have one son.
Jimmy Reynolds Jr. is a visual arts teacher at Sylacauga City School System. He previously worked for HHGregg Inc. and Tweeter Home Entertainment. Reynolds has a business management degree from Auburn University and lives in Hollins.
The Republican Special Primary Election will be held on Oct. 6, 2020, with the General Election scheduled for Jan. 19, 2021.
The vacancy in House District 33 occurred following the sudden passing of State Rep. Ron Johnson, R-Sylacauga, in July.
House District 33 consists of portions of Clay, Coosa and Talladega Counties.