Assemblywoman Christy Smith called for an advertising boycott of the Santa Clarita Gazette over publisher Doug Sutton’s weekly column, “Doug’s Rant.”
“I will no longer be promoting my official state activities, nor sponsoring paid campaign advertising in Santa Clarita Gazette and Free Classifieds,” Smith wrote on her Facebook page.
Anthony Breznican’s Twitter post (@Breznican) on Saturday morning was the first public outcry. Smith’s Facebook post followed shortly after on Sunday morning.
At issue is Sutton’s August 16th column in which he voices his opinions about racism, white supremacy and Donald Trump. Many of the hundreds that commented on Smith’s post expressed shock and disgust that Sutton seemed to be at best minimizing, and at worst denying, that these things exist in Santa Clarita or the Trump presidency.
“Come on you Trump derangement sufferers, please tell me words and actions of what this man has said or done to cause you to believe that he believes the white race is better than all other races and he should have control over all other races?!” Sutton wrote. “Don’t give me the poppycock of him saying that some illegals coming in to our country are criminals, saying the squad should go back to where they came from or Baltimore is a horrible place to live. Seriously, if you think those words represent the definition of a white supremacist then I almost feel sorry for you. And if you think statements like those cause sick people to shoot other people, then I definitely feel sorry for you.”
In an email, Sutton explained that this column’s purpose was to point out that many who the left call “white nationalist” or “white supremacist” are not. He also asserted that the left is more concerned with name calling and labeling than problem solving.
“I agree there are negative factions in every area of our political landscape,” he said. “I disagree that it is as rampant as those criticizing me may feel.”
Smith (D-Santa Clarita) didn’t return calls to her cell phone, her Sacramento office or her district office. On Facebook, Smith quoted a Morning Consult/Politico poll from last week that said 47 percent of voters perceive white nationalism as a threat, and she referenced FBI statistics that showed hate crimes increased from 2014-17.
“I’m exercising my ‘white privilege,’ the privilege of moving money, marshaling resources, and saying no more,” she wrote. “I urge anyone who supports this publication with your ad dollars to do the same. Let’s show our neighbors we stand with them.”
Many posters applauded Smith’s decision. Many wrote similar to Kathye Armitage’s post: “Thank you for speaking up about this. I am with you.”
Other posters called Sutton names. Abby Savell called him “a simpleton who in his own white male privilege, has no idea of how to process deeper layers of thought and nuance of any sort.” Bruce McFarland said he was “a blind self-deluded man.”
The group CA25 United for Progress expressed support for the boycott and provided a link on its Facebook page of 38 Gazette advertisers’ email addresses and 42 business listings.
One Smith supporter, Victor Lizano, posted an encouragement to email Gazette advertisers inviting them to join the boycott. At least one person, Breznican, did.
“I live in Santa Clarita and there is a boycott movement happening against the Santa Clarita Free Gazette over the publisher’s recent column excusing and diminishing the danger of ‘white supremacy,’” Breznican wrote in an email an advertiser forwarded to the Gazette. “In the current issue he dedicated a full page to a ‘rant’ declaring that white supremacy is a hoax. He has previously called himself a ‘defender of the problem of whiteness,’ and the new column includes a section dedicated to white pride. Your company advertised in that issue of the Gazette, and you deserve to know what kind of articles are appearing alongside your company’s name.”
Sutton said in an email that he has received “significant support from those advertisers who have been contacted and encouraged to pull their advertising. I will also say that for every one of these attacks on me and this newspaper there have been just as many in support of us.”
“The purpose of this boycott is to shut down my paper and put good people out of work. Furthermore to silence an opinion they disagree with and to shape the media landscape locally to their liking and opinion,” he said. “The method of group thinking I’ve seen on social media is actually a sad reflection on many in our community to jump on a bandwagon based on inaccurate descriptions of my opinion.”
Saugus school district board member David Barlavi, who posted that he donated $100 to Smith’s 2020 re-election campaign, told the Gazette that Sutton must retract his comments; acknowledge racism, white supremacy and white nationalism exist and apologize.
Sutton says he challenges the critics to specify “the exact words I used that conveyed I’m a racist. I was, in no statement, condoning or encouraging any form of white supremacy, I was not stating any superiority of any race. I’ve also written before that all forms of mistreatment of any person of any race, religion, nationality or sexuality is wrong!”
Poster Guy Nohrenberg also challenged Smith to specify which parts of Sutton’s column she found objectionable. And David Goss sent out an email to advertisers in response to the email he received.
“While it’s everyone’s right to disagree with others, I do not feel it’s right to attack an entire business over one person’s comments,” Goss wrote. “Doug’s paper employs some very wonderful people, and while the purpose of this hit piece is to hurt Doug, it also affects hard working people of the Gazette who may or may not share the same opinion as Doug. I would encourage you to not make a decision on whether to continue to advertise with the Gazette based on this underhanded and horrible practice of outing advertisers in an attempt to shame them into removing their advertisements.”