An Alabama newspaper that found itself in the national spotlight over its owner’s call for a Ku Klux Klan revival won’t move in the direction that the new Black editor wanted.
Elecia R. Dexter, who the owner hired in February apparently to quiet the storm, stepped down from her job as editor and publisher Friday, the New York Times reported. She had hoped to make the Democrat-Reporter more reflective of the racially diverse city of Linden, which is about 59 percent white and 41 percent African-American.
The owner, Goodloe Sutton, received his 15 minutes of national fame after the Montgomery Advertiser confirmed on Feb. 18 that he wrote a Feb. 14 editorial that called for the KKK’s revival. In his piece, Sutton said he wanted “the Klan to go up there and clean out D.C.” of Democrats and Republicans who act like Democrats.
“I would have liked it to turn out a different way, but it didn’t. This is a hard one because it’s sad — so much good could have come out of this,” Dexter said.
Dexter said that 80-year-old Sutton had interfered with her editorial leadership of the newspaper since she took over. In one instance, he emailed an altered version of the Feb. 28 issue of the paper to local news outlets and advertisers. She felt that it was necessary in another instance to send out a news release saying that a recent issue of the paper “does not reflect the views or thoughts” of the new editor.
After his controversial editorial, Sutton stood by his words when the Montgomery Advertiser asked for clarification. “We’ll get the hemp ropes out, loop them over a tall limb and hang all of them,” Sutton said, clearly advocating lynching.
Sutton’s family has owned the newspaper, which has been in existence since 1879, for decades. But it had become “a one-man show” under Sutton’s leadership. Circulation has fallen to a few thousand.
Despite the firestorm in February, Sutton had declined to step down. However, he finally yielded under pressure. Sutton said his decision to resign as editor had nothing to do with the controversy—pointing instead to his age.
Dexter, 46, said she has a background in human resources and started working in the front office of the newspaper a few weeks before the controversy erupted.
She recalled to the Times about having a “very open and direct dialogue” with Sutton after he published his KKK editorial, one in a long history of racially-tinged pieces. He offered Dexter the job, as she was debating in her mind whether to leave the company.
Sutton said Dexter is someone “who can get things done.”