An editorial written in support of the Ku Klux Klan. That’s something you might expect to see in 1919.
Believe it or not, you can see it in 2019, too. The editor and publisher of a small-town newspaper in Alabama wrote one just last week.
The editorial, with the shock headline “The Klan Needs to Ride Again,” appeared in the February 14 edition of The Democrat-Reporter in Linden, Alabama.
“Time for the Ku Klux Klan to night ride again,” begins the editorial, written by Goodloe Sutton. “Democrats in the Republican Party and Democrats are plotting to raise taxes in Alabama.”
Sutton confirmed to CNN that he wrote the editorial but declined to provide any additional information.
He told the Montgomery Advertiser he urged the white supremacist group to “clean out D.C.” via lynchings. “We’ll get the hemp ropes out, loop them over a tall limb and hang all of them,” Sutton told the newspaper.
He stressed that he wasn’t calling for the hangings of all Americans, just the “socialist-communists.”
“Seem like the Klan would be welcome to raid the gated communities up there,” Sutton wrote in the editorial.
Beginning in the late 19th century, Klan members used night rides to terrorize blacks and their white allies with violence, including lynchings and firebombings.
His comments have drawn calls for his resignation
When asked by the Advertiser if he recognized the Klan as a white supremacist group, Sutton compared it to the NAACP and said, “The Klan wasn’t violent until they needed to be.”
His comments sparked swift outrage.
Democratic US Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama called for Sutton to resign.
“OMG! What rock did this guy crawl out from under? This editorial is absolutely disgusting & he should resign -NOW!” Jones said in a tweet. “I have seen what happens when we stand by while people-especially those with influence- publish racist, hateful views. Words matter. Actions matter. Resign now!”
Another Democratic lawmaker from Alabama, US Rep. Terri Sewell, also urged Sutton to resign and reminded people of the horrors of the Klan.
“For the millions of people of color who have been terrorized by white supremacy, this kind of ‘editorializing’ about lynching is not a joke – it is a threat,” she tweeted.
The Alabama Press Association condemned the editorial as well, saying it doesn’t condone violence of any kind.
“While we do not agree with the opinion, APA is not a policing agency, and we simply have no authority over what our member newspapers print,” Executive Director Felicia Mason told CNN.
On Tuesday night, the press group’s board of directors voted to censure Sutton and suspend The Democrat-Reporter’s membership.
The University of Southern Mississippi’s School of Communication said Tuesday it has removed Sutton, an alumnus, from its Mass Communication and Journalism Hall of Fame “in light of Mr. Sutton’s recent and continued history of racist remarks.”
The school added that it “strongly condemns Mr. Sutton’s remarks as they are antithetical to all that we value as scholars of journalism, the media, and human communication.”
Auburn University’s Journalism Advisory Council also stripped Sutton of its 2009 distinguished community journalism award following a Tuesday vote.
Alabama Secretary of State John H. Merrill said, “This type behavior is not acceptable and whenever it is introduced, it should be identified and rejected.”
Newspaper has courted controversy before
Linden is a town of about 2,000 people in west-central Alabama. Sutton told USA Today in 2015 that The Democrat-Reporter’s circulation, once more than 7,000, had fallen to about 3,000 subscribers.
The Klan piece isn’t the first controversial editorial in the pages of the newspaper.
In October 2017, the paper published an editorial about the controversy over NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice.
“Some of the news programs are making a big to-do about black football players kneeling in the stadium,” the editorial said. “That’s what black folks were taught to do two hundred years ago, kneel before a white man.”
A July 2016 editorial mocked President Barack Obama, calling him “the Kenyan King,” and complained about the “way uncivilized tribes in Africa still run things.”
In April, the paper ran a political cartoon that ridiculed Palestinians.
CNN’s Paul P. Murphy contributed to this report.