Mitchell Won't Face Disciplinary Action for Comments

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March 30, 2013

Alabama

By Andy Marshall

MONTGOMERY, Alabama: Speaker Mike Hubbard (R) of the Alabama House of Representatives announced this week that Representative Joe Mitchell (D) would not be punished for offensive language in emails to retired coal miner Eddie Maxwell. Although expressing his disagreement with Mitchell's comments, Hubbard noted that Mitchell had exercised his right to free speech and broken no laws. The speaker suggested that any action on the matter must come from the Democratic caucus.[1]

On January 27, Maxwell sent out a mass email to Alabama state legislators in which he opposed gun control measures and warned that even introducing new gun control bills would be unconstitutional. Replying from his official legislative email account that same day, Mitchell, an African-American, wrote that "your folk never used all this sheit (sic) to protect my folk from your slave-holding, murdering, adulterous, baby-raping, incestuous, snaggle-toothed, backward-a**ed, inbreed (sic), imported criminal-minded kin folk." Maxwell, who is white, replied on February 11. After expressing his disappointment that a legislator would write such an email, he asserted that he was not a racist, citing his friendship with an NAACP leader which started during their service in Vietnam, and that "racism is not exclusive" to whites. Mitchell responded on February 13 with an email dismissive of Maxwell's response. After describing his own experience of racism, Mitchell concluded, "It is unlikely that I, through sharing my many experiences on the receiving end, will convince you of your errors. For that matter, you will never convince me that our discomforts were comparable. Let the next generations resolve this continuing story. Lock and load." All these emails were copied to all Alabama state legislators. Maxwell also received a February 11 response from Representative Patricia Todd saying she was "saddened by the tone" of Mitchell's email.[2]

In a March 27 interview with Lagniappe, Mitchell refused to apologize and disputed that his comments were racist.[3][4] Also on March 27, House Minority Leader Craig Ford (D) publically disagreed with what Mitchell had said in his emails and said, "I assure you that Joseph Mitchell does not speak for Democrats or anyone else other than himself."[5]

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