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Newspaper publishes more tape revealing additional intimidation, threats by McCurtain officials

A screenshot of information from the McCurtain Gazette on its release of tape on Wednesday, April 19, 2023
McCurtain Gazette
A screenshot of information from the McCurtain Gazette on its release of tape on Wednesday, April 19, 2023

A rural newspaper involved in what has become a national controversy has released more information.

The McCurtain Gazette-News published more than three hours of audio from a meeting where several county officials allegedly made violent and racist comments.

In the newly released tape, McCurtain County District Attorney Mark Matloff is discussed. McCurtain Sheriff Kevin Clardy says on the recording he once went to Matloff’s office to “whoop his ass.”

Sheriff’s investigator Alicia Manning says on the recording Matloff wrote six letters to the attorney general about the McCurtain Sheriff’s Office, but expresses doubt anything will come from the inquiries because she says Matloff is unpopular in Oklahoma City.

“They don’t care. They don’t care what happens. Nobody f*cking likes him,” said Manning.

The recording also features extended talk of threats and intimidation toward McCurtain Gazette staff. At one point, Clardy says his son, Kyler, who is a sheriff’s deputy, saw reporter Chris Willingham at Choctaw Travel Plaza.

“Kyler looked at him and said, ‘F*ck you, motherf*cker, don’t talk to me.’ Said Chris had a bag of chips and threw it on the counter and said, ‘I don’t think I need that,’ then turned around and walked out. Kyler said he just started dying laughing,” said Clardy.

The Gazette said it published the recording to remain transparent in its reporting. According to a lawsuit filed in federal court by Willingham, the newspaper published a series of articles about the sheriff between 2021 and 2022 that detailed favoritism and improper handling of evidence.

The release of the recording follows on the heels of clips of tape that caused an outcry. In the clips, Commissioner Mark Jennings, who has since resigned, laments that racist violence is no longer legal.

Gov. Kevin Stitt has called for the resignations of Clardy, Manning, and jail administrator Larry Hendrix. Citizens and other officials, including McCurtain County state Sen. George Burns, have echoed the governor.

Before joining Public Radio Tulsa, Elizabeth Caldwell was a freelance reporter and a teacher. She holds a master's from Hollins University. Her audio work has appeared at KCRW, CBC's The World This Weekend, and The Missouri Review. She is a south Florida native.