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Ala. Newspaper Publisher Is Criticized For Controversial KKK Op-Ed


An Alabama newspaper publisher faces demands that he resign after his paper called for the KKK to ride again. He said the white supremacist group should clean out Washington. Troy Public Radio's Kyle Gassiott got reaction in Linden, Ala.

KYLE GASSIOTT, BYLINE: For the past week, one name keeps getting repeated at the checkout stand in Linden's Dollar General, that of Goodloe Sutton, publisher and editor of the Democrat-Reporter newspaper.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: I don't know what's wrong with Goodloe.

BOBBY WILLIAMS: Pretty typical, the reaction you would get from the people around Linden about Goodloe Sutton.

GASSIOTT: Bobby Williams (ph) works at the store and has lived in town for 16 years. He remembers when newspaper racks were full of the Democrat-Reporter on the front sidewalk. But about six months ago, another racially charged story changed that and led to boycotts.

WILLIAMS: They moved them and took them out of the stores. But still, somehow, he printed his paper off, and he got them around.

GASSIOTT: In the past few years, Sutton's op-eds have been particularly divisive. In 2017, he wrote, African-American athletes should be allowed to kneel during the national anthem because 200 years ago, blacks were taught to kneel before white men. In his latest column, published last week, he called for the Ku Klux Klan to rise up and, quote, "night ride again." He also singled-out Democrats who he claims are plotting to raise taxes in Alabama.

Prominent Alabama lawmakers have called on Sutton to resign. They include longtime GOP Senator Richard Shelby, Democrat Doug Jones and Alabama's Republican governor. Civil rights activists are also upset about Goodloe's column.

BENARD SIMELTON: He's used the word Democrats, but I have a sneaky suspicion that he's talking more about African-Americans.

GASSIOTT: Benard Simelton is the president of the Alabama chapter of the NAACP. He says Sutton made up parts of his op-ed that claimed freed slaves once borrowed their masters' Klan robes to frighten or kill people. And he's angry that Sutton later compared the NAACP to the Klan.

SIMELTON: I would ask Mr. Sutton, how many churches has the NAACP bombed and killed folks? How many Medgar Evers has the NAACP killed?

GASSIOTT: In 2009, Auburn University gave Sutton and his wife, Jean, awards for their investigative reporting. But yesterday Auburn stripped him of the award, according to Journalism Advisory Council Chairman Anthony Cook.

ANTHONY COOK: Those types of comments were just - they're flabbergasting. They're just outrageous and outlandish and cannot be tolerated.

GASSIOTT: The University of Southern Mississippi removed Sutton from its hall of fame, and the Alabama Press Association formally censured him. Goodloe Sutton hasn't backed down under withering national criticism, but he did decline to be interviewed for this story, saying he had to work on this week's paper, which will be published tomorrow and will include another op-ed. For NPR News, I'm Kyle Gassiott in Linden, Ala. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kyle Gassiott