(BBC) — The editor and publisher of a local paper in Alabama is under fire for penning an editorial calling for mass lynchings by the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).
The opinion piece ran in his print-only newspaper, the Democrat-Reporter, last Thursday, Goodloe Sutton confirmed on Tuesday.
He said Democrats were going to raise taxes and that the KKK should hang them and raid Washington DC.
Alabama lawmakers have called for Sutton to resign.
The KKK is one of the oldest white supremacy groups in the US, formed just after the civil war. The group was behind many of the lynchings, rapes and violent attacks on African Americans in the 1900s.
The editorial began garnering attention online after students from Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, tweeted photographs of the article.
Sutton could not be immediately reached for comment on the matter.
He was once a celebrated journalist, commended for his ethics by other news outlets – including the New York Times and American Journalism Review.
What did the editorial say?
A short editorial piece published without a byline on 14 February was entitled: “Klan needs to ride again.”
“Time for the Ku Klux Klan to night ride again,” the article said, referencing the KKK’s terrorising raids through black communities.
“Democrats in the Republican Party and Democrats are plotting to raise taxes in Alabama… This socialist-communist ideology sounds good to the ignorant, the uneducated, and the simple-minded people.”
“Seems like the Klan would be welcome to raid the gated communities up there.”
Sutton later confirmed to the Montgomery Advertiser that he had written the article.
“If we could get the Klan to go up there and clean out DC we’d all been better off,” he said. “We’ll get the hemp ropes out, loop them over a tall limb and hang all of them.”
“It’s not calling for the lynchings of Americans. These are socialist-communists we’re talking about.”
Sutton also told the paper he did not believe the Klan was a violent organisation.
“They didn’t kill but a few people. The Klan wasn’t violent until they needed to be.”
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are currently around 5,000 to 8,000 KKK members across the US; during the Klan’s heyday in the 1900s, there were as many as four million members.
What’s the reaction?
Alabama Senator Doug Jones, the Democrat who won a bitter race against Republican Roy Moore, expressed his shock over the “absolutely disgusting” editorial and said Sutton must resign immediately.
Democratic Representative Terri Sewell, who is black, said Sutton’s language was not a joke, but a threat.
Kyle Whitmire, a political writer in Alabama, said he once worked at Sutton’s paper and felt “sickened” by last week’s editorial.