After less than a month job, the Black woman appointed editor of the Alabama newspaper whose former white publisher called for the Ku Klux Klan to “night ride again” has resigned.
Linden Mayor Charles Moore confirmed the news to AL.com over the weekend, saying Elecia Dexter, who took over the troubled Democrat-Reporter on Feb. 21, was essentially “run off” by former publisher and editor Goodloe Sutton.
“He never left the building,” said Moore of Sutton, whose family has owned and operated Linden, Ala., newspaper since 1917. “It seemed like (Dexter) would be real energetic and her (hiring) was the right thing.”
Dexter told CNN a similar story, saying she quit the small-time weekly over what she called “continuous and damaging interference” by the paper’s owner. Sutton, 80, resigned last month amid outrage over a Feb. 14 op-ed published in The Democrat-Reporter titled “The Klan Needs to Ride Again.”
Dexter described her peculiar and short-lived tenure at the Alabama newspaper, telling CNN she could no longer work with Sutton and resigned “so that her integrity and well-being can be maintained.” The Eastern Illinois University alum started out as a clerk at the small-town paper and was suddenly thrust into the top spot after Goodloe’s resignation despite having no previous journalism experience.
After only a few weeks, Dexter is out.
“I would have liked it to turn out a different way, but it didn’t,” she is quoted as saying by The New York Times, which first reported the story. “This is a hard one because it’s sad — so much good could have come out of this.”
In an interview, Dexter told the Times she had hoped to make the Democrat-Reporter a bit more reflective of the the western Alabama community it serves, which is about 41 percent Black and 59 percent white. Instead, her predecessor used the newspaper to tear down the community and write racially insensitive articles that only angered Linden’s Black residents, according to Moore.
Sutton came under intense scrutiny last month after rallying for the return of the KKK, calling on the infamous white supremacist group to “clean up [Washington,] D.C.” When asked to clarify his comments, the former 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,” the told The Montgomery Advertiser at the time.
Despite the backlash, Sutton said he doesn’t regret penning the controversial op-ed and argued that folks missed the point of his article.
“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 said. “[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.”
On Friday, Dexter told the The Times that Sutton had sent out an altered version of the paper’s Feb. 28 issue to several local outlets, which featured an article about his retirement that was instead replaced with one that defended his Klan editorial and bashed the Montgomery Advertiser’s coverage of the controversy. Dexter said his actions forced her to put out a press release calling the issue a falsification that was created without her authorization.
In a separate press release, Dexter also accused the former editor of interfering with Thursday’s edition of the paper, saying it did not reflect her thoughts or views. That’s also when she announced her own resignation.
“The decision to accept the role of Publisher/Editor of The Democrat Reporter was an honor and I have no regrets,” Dexter wrote. “I am not discouraged, healing will come to the wonderful and loving people here.”
Moore told AL.com he would like to see the newspaper “fade out.” The publication, which has about 3,000 subscribers, is now reportedly up for sale.