The embattled publisher of a small-town Alabama newspaper who sparked national outrage last week after running a racist, hate-filled column announced he is handing over the reins of the Marengo County weekly.
Goodloe Sutton, longtime publisher of The Democrat-Reporter in Linden, Ala., is offering no apologies for his violent rhetoric, however, and said he’d “do it all over again” if he could.
In a press release Thursday, the newspaper announced Elecia R. Dexter as its new editor and publisher. Sutton confirmed to the Montgomery Advertiser that Dexter, a Black woman, would serve as the paper’s “publisher, editor and owner” moving forward.
“The Democrat-Reporter has provided the community of West Alabama with quality news for over 140 years and you may have full confidence that Ms. Dexter will continue in this tradition as well as moving the paper into a new direction,” the press release stated. “We are pleased to make this announcement, as her family has strong roots and a rich history in Marengo County where her dad, John Dexter Jr. was born.”
When contacted by the Advertiser, Sutton declined to say whether the paper had been sold to Dexter or if ownership was transferred and repeatedly called the Advertiser “dumb” for even asking. It’s unclear what role, if any, Sutton will play at the paper going forward.
Sutton, whose family has operated the small-town weekly since 1917, drummed up plenty of backlash after publishing a Feb. 14 editorial titled “Klan Needs to Ride Again,” in which he called for the return of the infamous white supremacist hate group to go and “clean up [Washington,] D.C.” When asked to clarify what he meant by “clean up D.C.,” the publisher suggested the lynchings of so-called “socialist communists.”
“We’ll get the hemp ropes out, loop them over a tall limb and hang all of them,” he said.
Despite the furor, Sutton said he doesn’t regret penning the controversial op-ed, telling AL.com, “It got me about $10 million in free publicity. I know I’d do it all over again.”
The former editor also argued the point of the editorial went over most people’s heads.
“The point of the editorial was ironic in that all these years, the FBI and the Department of Justice have been investigating the Klan and now, that shoe is on the other foot,” he added. “[The FBI and Justice Department] are doing wrong and the Klan needs to investigate them. That’s what the point of [the editorial] was. Not a lot of people understand irony today.”
Last week, the 80-year-old hinted that he was in the process of selling the paper, which has a circulation of about 3,000. Several of his other racist and anti-Semitic writings have come also to light in recent days, for which Sutton has refused to apologize.
“Lady, I don’t give a shit. I’m quitting,” he told Advertiser reporter Melissa Brown last week. “You can tell everybody you ran me out of the newspaper business.”
Sutton’s racist rhetoric since has cost the newspaper several journalism honors it earned after exposing corruption inside the Marengo County Sheriff’s Department and has also resulted in censure from the Alabama Press Association.
Now, Dexter, 46, is tasked with restoring the reputation of the once-acclaimed newspaper
According to the news release, Dexter is a graduate of Eastern Illinois University, where she gained her Bachelors in Speech Communication. She would go on to earn her Masters in Human Services from Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies and a Masters in Counseling from Argosy University. What’s more, Dexter carries years of expertise in human resources, operations and change management under her belt.
“Good riddance Goodloe,” Democratic Alabama Sen. Doug Jones said of the editor’s departure. “His dangerous views do not represent Alabama or the small-town papers in Alabama that do great work every day. The good people of Linden deserve so much better than these racist rants and I am confident they will get it with new editor, Elecia Dexter.”