Conservative Media Outlet 1819 News Under Fire for Outing Alabama Mayor Who Died
Author: Christopher Wiggins
The Alabama community and nationwide media are scrutinizing the conservative blog 1819 News following its controversial coverage of Smiths Station Mayor F.L. “Bubba” Copeland, which preceded his tragic death.
Related: Alabama Mayor, Pastor Dies by Suicide After Being Involuntarily Outed as Transgender Woman
1819 News came under fire after publishing stories about Mayor Copeland’s secret online persona, where he explored his gender identity in female-presenting clothing and makeup. The day before Copeland’s funeral on Thursday, 1819 News released a podcast episode where CEO Bryan Dawson and editor-in-chief Jeff Poor discussed their rationale for covering Copeland’s private affairs.
They revealed that the outlet had received a tip about Copeland on October 30, subsequently assigning the story to reporter Craig Monger. Poor, who also writes for the far-right outlet Breitbart News, defended the decision, stating that Copeland’s actions warranted public scrutiny as a public figure and worship leader, the Beast reports.
Unapologetic for the reporting, Dawson said that he “100 percent” stood behind their work, emphasizing 1819 News’s commitment to “tell the truth, no matter what.” The site’s first piece on Copeland, published on November 1, delved into his life as a “transgender curvy girl” named Brittini Blaire Summerlin, a persona he described as a stress-relieving hobby. Further reporting by 1819 News claimed Copeland used images and details of local residents without consent in his online activities, intensifying the controversy.
Following the reports, Copeland fatally shot himself. The incident sparked a heated debate over media ethics and the public interest in a person’s private life, especially in sensitive matters such as gender identity.
Related: After Pastor’s Suicide, a Man Took to TikTok to Explain What It’s Like to Be Outed
Dawson, who The Daily Beast notes found religion in prison and frequently shares his conversion story, remained unyielding in his defense of the reporting.
Copeland’s suicide, occurring on a county road as Lee County deputies attempted a welfare check, sparked a social media backlash against 1819 News. The debate centered around whether the articles served the public interest or were merely sensationalist fodder for cultural wars over gender identity. Experts have noted that a single event rarely causes suicide, but the timing in this case led to significant public backlash against the news outlet.
Dawson appeared unfazed by the global attention the story garnered. He and Poor did not return The Daily Beast’s messages. The source who initially tipped off 1819 News about Copeland’s online activities remains unknown.
In a statement to AL.com, 1819 News referred to Copeland’s “victims” while sharing “thoughts and prayers” for the community, the church, and Copeland’s family.
This framing of Copeland as having victims in his private activities was met with criticism, particularly in the context of Alabama’s current legislative stance against transgender rights.
Launched in October 2021, 1819 News promotes itself as a provider of “honest news” with “Alabama values,” aiming to deliver hard-hitting and investigative journalism.
If you are having thoughts of suicide or are concerned that someone you know may be, resources are available to help. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 is for people of all ages and identities. Trans Lifeline, designed for transgender or gender-nonconforming people, can be reached at (877) 565-8860. The lifeline also provides resources to help with other crises, such as domestic violence situations. The Trevor Project Lifeline, for LGBTQ+ youth (ages 24 and younger), can be reached at (866) 488-7386. Users can also access chat services at TheTrevorProject.org/Help or text START to 678678.
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Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Christopher Wiggins