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.