News & Politics

Southern Poverty Law Center President to Testify to Homeland Security Committee on Terrorism

Southern Poverty Law Center President Richard Cohen discusses a SPLC federal lawsuit against the Alabama Accountability Act during a press conference in Montgomery, Ala., Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

On Monday morning, the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security announced that Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) will testify at a terrorism hearing on Tuesday. This suggests that members of the U.S. House of Representatives consider him to be a reputable expert on terrorism, which is laughable given his organization’s link to two terror attacks.

“World Wide Threats: Keeping America Secure In The New Age Of Terror” will host two panels of experts on Tuesday, the first focused on threats outside of America and the second on “threats and challenges posed by domestic extremist groups.”

The second panel will feature Oren Segal, director of the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Center on Extremism, David B. Rausch, chief of police in the city of Knoxville, Tenn. (who will testify on behalf of the International Association of Chiefs of Police), and Richard Cohen, the SPLC president. When Cohen last testified before the same committee, he conveniently omitted his own organization’s history with terrorism.

It is an outrage that Cohen, the president of a left-wing smear organization directly connected to domestic terrorism, will be speaking about the issue.

In August 2012, Floyd Lee Corkins II broke into the Family Research Council (FRC), a Christian nonprofit in Washington, D.C., armed with a semi-automatic pistol and Chick-Fil-A chicken sandwiches. He shot an unarmed security guard, and would have killed everyone in the building. Corkins Corkins pled guilty to committing an act of terrorism and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

He later testified to the FBI that he intended to move on to other groups after decimating the FRC, and that he targeted these groups because they were listed as “anti-gay groups” on the SPLC website.

This past summer, James Hodgkinson opened fire at a Republican practice for the Congressional Baseball Game, nearly killing Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.). Hodgkinson had “liked” the SPLC on Facebook, and the SPLC had repeatedly attacked Scalise as a white supremacist, even after he apologized for giving one speech to a white nationalist organization (and was attacked as a traitor by former KKK leader David Duke).

Despite these events, the SPLC has gained traction and attention following the white nationalist riots in Charlottesville, Va.

Following the riots, Apple pledged $1 million to the organization, along with other key benefits, while J.P. Morgan chipped in $500,000. Companies like Lyft and MGM Resorts have partnered with the group, while Pfizer, Bank of America, and Newman’s Own have each contributed over $8,900 to the SPLC in recent years.

All this money merely props up a cash cow. As of 2015, the SPLC had $328 million in net assets, and it took in $50 million in contributions that year. More damningly, the Washington free Beacon recently reported that the group sent multiple transactions to foreign entities, including two cash payments of $2.2 million into the Cayman Islands.

While the Fox News claim that the group only spends $61,000 on legal work seems to be false, the 2015 Form 990 shows that only $1.9 million went to “case cost expense,” while “postage & shipping costs” took up $3.1 million.

Despite all this, news outlets like CNN, NBC, and ABC have parroted the SPLC’s “hate group” designations. CNN even posted the group’s “hate map,” which inspired the FRC attack in 2012.

Even if the “hate map” had not been directly linked to a terrorist attack, the list of “hate groups” is extremely problematic.

The “hate group” list  features Christian organizations like D. James Kennedy MinistriesFRC, Liberty Counsel, the American Family Association (AFA), and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), along with other groups like the American College of Pediatricians and the Center for Immigration Studies. It also lists Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz and women’s rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali as “anti-Muslim extremists.”

Recent scandals also suggest that the SPLC is careless in listing “hate groups.” Last month, the group removed the innocent historic town of Amana Colonies from its “hate map.” While the SPLC eventually removed Amana Colonies, it first defended the “hate” label because a white supremacist website claimed to have had a book club in one of the town’s restaurants.

In a series of three videos, the anti-terror group Quilliam International revealed the SPLC’s ever-changing reasons for listing Muslim Maajid Nawaz as an “anti-Muslim extremist.” One of the reasons the SPLC gave for targeting Nawaz? His visit to a strip club for his bachelor party.

Furthermore, the SPLC also posted a list of every Confederate monument in the United States, warning of “turmoil and bloodshed” if they were not all taken down. But the list — complete with its own map which looks eerily similar to the “hate map” that inspired the FRC attack — also marked elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools.

While it may be unlikely for another terrorist like Corkins to use such a map to attack schools, the controversy over Confederate monuments has indeed inspired many protests, some of which have become violent. No student deserves to have to walk to school through a violent protest.

As for the SPLC’s ultimate goals, former spokesman Mark Potok was terrifyingly candid. “Sometimes the press will describe us as monitoring hate groups, I want to say plainly that our aim in life is to destroy these groups, completely destroy them,” he said.

Potok later explained that the SPLC’s criteria for a hate group “have nothing to do with criminality, or violence, or any kind of guess we’re making about ‘this group could be dangerous.’ It’s strictly ideological.” Given the groups listed as “hate groups,” the SPLC’s liberal and anti-Christian slant could not be more apparent.

Indeed, some have argued that because the SPLC lists “anti-LGBT hate groups,” they would have to list the Roman Catholic Church to be consistent. In the section attacking Ruth Institute President Jennifer Roback Morse, the SPLC quotes the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church.

Many of the targeted organizations have sued the SPLC for defamation. D. James Kennedy Ministries, Liberty Counsel, and Maajid Nawaz have each filed defamation lawsuits against this organization.

To illustrate just how egregious it is to take the Southern Poverty Law Center’s hate list at face value, 47 conservative organizations presented a hypothetical in their open letter to the media.

“Let’s assume that congressional debate were racing as to whether or not taxpayers should continue to fund Planned Parenthood, which receives about $500 million a year from Congress. If a national pro-life advocacy organization were to release a map with caricatures of abortionists and title it, ‘Here’s Where the Baby Killers are Located in Your State,’ would the media run the story? Would it reprint the map and discuss the location of these ‘pro-death’ doctors throughout the news day? Clearly, it would not.”

The idea that this far-Left cash cow smear organization — connected to at least one terrorist attack — which targeted innocent towns and schools and manufactured ridiculous excuses for listing a Muslim reformer on an “anti-Muslim extremist” list should ever be taken seriously as a resource on terrorism is laughable.

Then again, last week a sitting U.S. Senator compared a religious liberty litigation group which has won seven cases before the U.S. Supreme Court in seven years to the genocidal Cambodian dictator Pol Pot, citing the SPLC’s list. Perhaps this is just par for the course.