A small weekly newspaper in Alabama whose longtime editor recently wrote an editorial calling for the Ku Klux Klan to “ride again” — and then doubled down on his comments by advocating lynching his political opponents — is handing over the publication to a black woman.
Elecia R. Dexter will take over as publisher and editor of the 140-year-old Democrat-Reporter, the paper announced on Friday. Though the paper’s previous editor, Goodloe Sutton, will maintain ownership of the publication, Dexter told the Associated Press that she will “handle everything else.”
Dexter, who began working at the Democrat-Reporter earlier this year, said she hopes her appointment as the new editor will help communicate that “this is everybody’s paper.”
Sutton has been the owner, publisher, and editor of the Democrat-Reporter for decades. He has a long history of penning racist, anti-Semitic, sexist, and homophobic editorials in the small-town paper, which has a circulation of about 3,000 in Marengo County, Alabama. Local lawmakers from the area say that Sutton’s predilection for racist commentary is well-known.
But the 80-year-old editor sparked national ire earlier this month after an Alabama journalist posted a photo of one of his paper’s editorials, which called for the KKK to “ride again” to block proposed tax increases in the state. The editorial argued that the Klan should raid the communities of the Democrats considering raising taxes.
Check the date. A paper published this in 2019. Wow. pic.twitter.com/jmVSTO61lX
— Chip Brownlee (@ByChipBrownlee) February 18, 2019
In a follow-up interview with the Montgomery Adviser, Sutton confirmed he wrote the piece, reaffirmed his support of the KKK, and called for lynchings of Democrats.
“If we could get the Klan to go up there and clean out D.C., we’d all been better off,” Sutton said. “We’ll get the hemp ropes out, loop them over a tall limb and hang all of them.”
Sutton’s comments prompted swift backlash. Alabama leaders, including Sens. Doug Jones (D) and Richard Shelby (R), condemned him and called for his resignation. The Alabama Press Association voted to censure him. The University of Southern Mississippi removed him from the school’s Journalism and Mass Communications Hall of Fame.
Nonetheless, Sutton has remained unrepentent, refusing to apologize.
“It got me about $10 million in free publicity. I know I would do it all over again,” Sutton told AL.com in a recent interview, adding that Democratic lawmakers are “terrible” while the KKK is “the nicest.”
According to the Democrat-Reporter’s press release announcing the leadership change at the newspaper, Dexter will take the newspaper in “a new direction.”
“Ms. Dexter is coming in at a pivotal time for the newspaper and you may have full confidence in her ability to handle these challenging times,” the statement said.