Artists rendering of Slim Smith

On Thursday, in response to a web video highlighting the growth of non-instructional spending in K12 schools in Mississippi on Facebook by State Auditor Shad White, Commercial Dispatch feature writer Slim Smith launched into a racially charged tweetstorm against White that targeted White as “Citizens’ Council State Auditor” and made slaveowner references to White.  Some in the local media went into full attack mode on White, and mounted a full-throated defense of the public school establishment.

As of Saturday morning, the original “Citizens’ Council” tweet was taken down by Smith.  However, White incorporated a screenshot of his original tweet and toyed with Smith by highlighting his child.  He and his wife Rinna recently celebrated the birth of their first.

When contacted Thursday and shown the original tweet referencing the Citizens’ Council, Commercial Dispatch Publisher Peter Imes would only comment on Smith’s tweet as follows, “The Dispatch uses its opinions section to share its opinions.”

But then Slim Smith went WAY further.  Smith then doubled down on the racial innuendo regarding White’s child by saying, “I’m sure you realize that plantations were well-stocked with interracial children.”

The implication by Smith of course ignores the fact that interracial children on slave plantations were almost always the result of forceable rape or at the very least coercion.

Double Standard?

In February 2019, an Alabama publisher named Goodloe Sutton similarly published racially inflammatory remarks saying, “If we could get the Klan to go up there and clean out D.C., we’d all been better off.”  Condemnation was immediate and press outlets in Mississippi and around the country (correctly) went into sheer apoplexy.  The Clarion Ledger covered it intensely.

The University of Southern Mississippi removed Sutton from its Journalism Hall of Fame.

Their comments regarding Goodloe Sutton seem particularly appropriate.

“Within the last few hours, the School of Communication at the University of Southern Mississippi learned of Mr. Goodloe Sutton’s call for violence and the return of the Ku Klux Klan. Mr. Sutton’s subsequent rebuttals and attempts at clarification only reaffirm the misguided and dangerous nature of his comments.

The School of Communication strongly condemns Mr. Sutton’s remarks as they are antithetical to all that we value as scholars of journalism, the media, and human communication. Our University’s values of social responsibility and citizenship, inclusion and diversity, and integrity and civility are the foundation upon which we have built our School and its programs.

Mississippi Today’s Adam Ganucheau even got in on the act.

Yet, in the 48 hours since Slim’s racially tinged attack on White and subsequent double down, there’s been dead silence in the Mississippi media establishment.  The Commercial Dispatch has been completely silent.  Some in the media appeared supportive of Smith’s comments on Twitter.

Why it matters?

Slim Smith isn’t just some anonymous liberal twitter troll.  He’s widely acknowledged by his peers.  In the ever-diminishing Mississippi press establishment, he’s peer recognized for “excellence”.  In 2018, his column, Slimantics was awarded by the Mississippi Press Association as first for General Interest and second for Commentary.

Whether or not the Commercial Dispatch will mete out any disciplinary actions against Smith or whether other media outlets will cover the incident or whether the Mississippi Press Association will revisit their prior recognition of Smith as USM did in the Goodloe Affair are all open questions at this time.

UPDATED 4/21/19