The inflammatory piece, which appeared in the Linden, Alabama, weekly The Democrat-Reporter, said the KKK would be “welcome to raid the gated communities” in Washington, D.C., where “Democrats” and “Democrats in the Republican Party” live. Sutton claimed the elected officials were “plotting to raise taxes in Alabama.”
After widespread backlash, Sutton was kicked out of the University of Southern Mississippi’s Mass Communications and Journalism Hall of Fame. He was also censured by the Alabama Press Association, which voted to suspend the weekly’s membership in the organization. Politicians in the state, including U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D), also called on the publisher, whose family has owned the weekly newspaper since 1917, to resign.
Despite the outrage and public condemnation, Sutton told AL.com that he would write the editorial again if he had the chance and that readers misunderstood the “irony” of the piece.
“It got me about $10 million in free publicity,” he said, adding that his friends at the local coffee shop referred to him as a “celebrity.”
“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. [The FBI and Justice Department] are doing wrong and the Klan needs to investigate them,” he added.
The newspaper’s readership has been declining over the years, according to a 2015 USA Today profile on the weekly. Though Sutton was once a Pulitzer Prize contender for an investigative series about a disgraced sheriff published in the 1990s, USA Today noted that the paper had a history of “racial” headlines that some readers “dismissed as examples of ‘Goodloe being Goodloe.’”