Now that's a tasty burger.
The editor of a small-town Alabama newspaper published an editorial calling for "the Ku Klux Klan to night ride again" against "Democrats in the Republican Party and Democrats (who) are plotting to raise taxes in Alabama."
Goodloe Sutton, who is the publisher of the Democrat-Reporter newspaper in Linden, confirmed to the Montgomery Advertiser on Monday that he authored the Feb. 14 editorial calling for the return of a white supremacist hate group.
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"... It's not calling for the lynchings of Americans. These are socialist-communists we're talking about. Do you know what socialism and communism is?" Sutton said.
In the newspaper editorial, Sutton wrote:
Democrats in the Republican Party and Democrats are plotting to raise taxes in Alabama. They do not understand how to eliminate expenses when money is needed in other areas. This socialist-communist ideology sounds good to the ignorant, the uneducated and the simple-minded people.
When asked if he recognized the KKK as a racist and violent organization, Sutton disagreed, comparing the Klan to the NAACP.
"A violent organization? Well, they didn't kill but a few people," Sutton said. "The Klan wasn't violent until they needed to be."
Sutton, 79, said he didn't know any Klan remaining in the area, stating most died out after the 1960s.
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The editor said he welcomed people to call him, write him a letter or boycott him.
Sutton, who has worked at the paper since 1964, inherited the publication from his father. Sutton and the newspaper received national acclaim in the 1990s for their reporting on a corrupt local sheriff. Sutton and his wife, Jane, reported a series of stories of misused funds and abuse of power.
The New York Times in 1998 reported Sutton and the Democrat-Reporter lost advertising dollars and subscribers over their reporting.
In 2007, Sutton was inducted into the University of Southern Mississippi's School of Communication Hall of Fame for the couple's anti-corruption articles and editorials.
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After the Advertiser reported on Sutton's recent editorial and comments, the university removed him from the Hall of Fame.
"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," a USM release stated. "Mr. Sutton’s subsequent rebuttals and attempts at clarification only reaffirm the misguided and dangerous nature of his comments. 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. 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."
Locals in west Alabama say the Democrat-Reporter has a history of inflammatory, racist and offensive language on the editorial page. A review of archived print editions reveal headlines such as "Homosexuals take black spotlight" and an editorial which stated "Slavery was a good lesson for Jews."
In 2015, the paper ran a headline titled: “Selma black thugs murder Demopolite Saturday night.” At that time, the paper had about 3,000 subscribers.
The paper also regularly republishes what appear to old editorials from the 1930s and 1940s, which include multiple instances of racist slurs.
Judson Coleman, a 38-year-old who calls the Linden and Demopolis area home, said the Democrat-Reporter has "called for violence against minorities for years."
"It has gone unchecked for decades," said Coleman, who is African-American.
Coleman said people in the community have "become numb" to the weekly newspaper. But he's frustrated by the idea that outsiders might have of Marengo County, which was about 51 percent black and 46 percent white, according to 2018 U.S. Census numbers.
Linden is located about 100 miles due west of Montgomery near the Mississippi border, deep in the rural Alabama Black Belt.
"People usually say we don’t know any better, we’re country bumpkins," Coleman said. "And if you’re black and live here, people think you don’t have a problem with racism. Otherwise, they say you should just move."
But Coleman, born and raised in the area, owns a business and has no plans to leave.
Chip Brownlee and Mikayla Burns — editor-in-chief and managing editor, respectively, at The Auburn Plainsman — first spotted Sutton's editorial and shared it online Monday. Brownlee on Monday published a review of of past Democrat-Reporter articles in the Alabama Political Reporter.
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"As a newspaper editor myself it's disturbing to see this type of editorial printed," Brownlee said via email. "Granted, I'm the editor of a student newspaper, but all newspapers should be held to the highest ethical and moral standards. Editorials should be about new ideas, constructive criticism and opinion backed up by facts. To call for the return of domestic terrorism — no matter its form — is counterproductive and wrong. It's important to welcome and encourage differing opinions, but violence is never right."
The Advertiser contacted the Alabama Press Association, the state trade association for newspapers in the state, to inquire whether or not Sutton and the Democrat-Reporter were members.
"We do not agree with the opinion," said Felicia Mason, APA executive director. "However, APA is not a policing agency. We simply have no authority over what our member newspapers publish."