Corruption pervades the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group with once noble motives that now merely smears its opponents out of a desire for political and financial gain. That was the conclusion of a recent discussion panel held at the Center for Security Policy on the occasion of the publication of Tyler O’Neil’s Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
O’Neil joined LTG William “Jerry” Boykin of the Family Research Council, and Kyle Shideler, Director and Senior Analyst for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism at the Center for Security Policy.
Tracing the evolution of the SPLC from its founding in Alabama by fundraiser Morris Dees, O’Neil noted how an organization created in order to assist the southern poor and redress civil rights wrongs turned into a multimillion-dollar powerhouse. The SPLC even had Cayman Island offshore accounts after Dees shifted the organization to the more financially lucrative work of targeting the virtually extinct Ku Klux Klan.
‘Part of the con’
Following a recent sexual and racial discrimination scandal however, Dees and other SPLC leaders were forced out. Former employees revealed a troubled history. O’Neil noted how the group shifted from its focus on the Klan, to targeting a growing list of political opponents they chose to label – often without evidence – as “hate groups.”
“SPLC employees came forward and said that they had been part of the con. That they were complicit in bilking their donors, and exaggerating hate. This coming from the very liberal former employees from the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Southern Poverty Law Center has for decades used its hate group accusation, to smear conservative and Christian organizations. It has a very biased angle to it.”
Incitement to murder
Boykin illustrated the very real cost to reputation, livelihood and even safety that results from being smeared by the SPLC in this manner. The Family Research Council chief spoke about militant Floyd Lee Corkins, who in 2012 attempted to murder the employees of the Family Research Council after finding the group’s name on the SPLC’s “hate map.”
“That man told the judge that he targeted us to kill as many people as possible, and he was going to smear a Chick-Fil-A sandwich in each face of the dead that he killed, because we were a ‘hate group,’ that we hated homosexuals. And that is not true, nothing could be further from the truth…. This whole hate map thing is totally illegitimate, what gives a self-proclaimed arbiter of hate the authority to list people and organizations as ‘haters?’ What gives them that authority? The only thing that gives them that authority is when industry and government use that data as if it was authentic. It is not authentic.”
Boykin also noted that would-be assassin James Hodgkinson, who shot and nearly killed U.S. Congressman Steve Scalise, also reportedly frequented the SPLC’s site. The SPLC had repeatedly smeared Scalise by terming his commitment to traditional family values as “hate.”
O’Neil noted that despite these tragic outcomes, leftwing groups and media are incentivized legitimize the SPLC’s bogus listings for political reasons.
“We see something very similar with the New York Times, the Washington Post, governments following and echoing the SPLC, even after this racism and sexism scandal broke. Liberal groups have an incentive to cite the SPLC as a credible source, to overlook its own corruption, the corruption of its founder, and say, look this is an effective tool, it’s a weapon. They like to have this hate group label that they can reference.”
Trump administration had US government sever ties to SPLC
Asked by Shideler regarding the current status of government relations with the SPLC, O’Neil replied,
“This is one of the times where I can very much say thank God for Donald Trump and thank god for Jeff Sessions. Jeff Sessions spoke at an ADF conference and said the FBI will not work with discredited organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“The tragic thing is we have had government, law enforcement apparatuses work with the Southern Poverty Law Center for years. In, I think it was, 2003 the military was giving out a right-wing extremism pamphlet that talked about SPLC hate groups.
“And just during the debates, the great Democratic moderate [former Vice-President] Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. came out and said he wanted a Southern Poverty Law Center-style terrorist watchlist for organizations that were accused of fomenting hate and violence against LGBT people…”
State hate crimes units based on SPLC accusations
O’Neil also noted the effort by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel to create a hate crimes unit based on SPLC data. Michigan is currently being sued by two organizations, including the American Freedom Law Center, whose complaint underscores the seriousness of the issue:
“It is one thing for a radically-partisan private organization like SPLC to express its falsehoods about political opponents. However, when the Michigan Attorney General and the Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights join and officially endorse this partisan attack by lending government resources and thus becoming the government enforcement agency for SPLC’s radical agenda, the protections of the United States Constitution are triggered.”
SPLC and Big Tech
Government is not the only place where the SPLC’s influence is felt. O’Neil addressed the growing collusion between the SPLC and key Big Tech companies, including Amazon and Apple. “They are setting up these pathways to give the SPLC more money and more influence,” O’Neil said.
Shideler contrasted the effectiveness of the tech companies shutting down SPLC-listed groups compared to their response to terrorist propaganda by groups like ISIS:
“Early on in the struggle with the Islamic State, the U.S. government and other world governments were going to the tech companies and saying, ‘we’re struggling with this challenge of jihadist propaganda. It’s on most of the social media sites.’ We had problems with Facebook and Twitter and some of the smaller ones like telegram …and they said, ‘will you please help us address this?’ And they did a terrible job. They were very ineffective at address Islamic State propaganda or Al Qaeda propaganda…why is it so hard to take the Islamic State off Twitter but it is not so hard to take off a group designated by the SPLC?”
De-funding conservative charities
General Boykin also stressed the negative impact of SPLC cooperation with charity rating services such as Guidestar and Charity Navigator, which began flagging non-profit organizations listed by the SPLC as hate groups on their websites in 2017, severely hampering the ability of organizations to fundraise before the decisions were finally overturned after public outcry.
The panel discussion concluded with a look at steps for addressing the SPLC’s continued bad behavior, including calling out the SPLC’s participation with discredited groups such as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) while stressing the importance of continuing to stand for free speech.
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