The same FBI that continues to employ notorious anti-Trump agent Peter Strzok still has an ongoing relationship with a discredited left-wing smear factory whose “hate group” labeling inspired a terrorist attack in 2012. Yes, the FBI continues to maintain a relationship with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), according to Fox News’ Tucker Carlson.
“In 2009, [the FBI] called the SPLC a ‘well-known, established, and credible organization that monitors domestic terrorism in the U.S.,'” Carlson noted on Friday. “The SPLC repeatedly has been allowed to brief FBI personnel on terror threats to this country. Disturbingly, this relationship is ongoing.”
“Despite multiple requests from this program, the FBI has refused to describe the extent of its collaboration,” Carlson added. “We’ve asked repeatedly for it to explain why it continues to work with a group like that.”
The Fox News host recalled receiving “mindless boilerplate statements” like this one: “The FBI has engaged with various organizations. Such outreach is a critical component of the FBI information, and we welcome — we evaluate our relationships to ensure appropriateness of any interaction.”
Then why didn’t the FBI confirm the contents of the Steele dossier before requesting a FISA application to surveil Trump campaign staff? Why did the FBI keep the investigation into Russian infiltration of the uranium industry a secret while Hillary Clinton approved the Uranium One deal? Why did FBI agent Peter Strzok let slip that former Attorney General Loretta Lynch knew Hillary Clinton would not face charges in the email scandal?
Tucker Carlson may well be forgiven for doubting the word of the FBI when it comes to organizations like the SPLC, which mainstreams liberal bias in the name of fighting “hate groups.”
Carlson also reported good news, however. He noted that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) sent a letter asking the FBI to explain the relationship. He also reported on a Department of Justice (DOJ) statement: “The Attorney General has directed the FBI to reevaluate their relationships with groups like this to ensure the FBI doesn’t partner with any group that discriminates, as the SPLC certainly does.”
What does Carlson mean by the SPLC discriminating? The left-wing organization maintains a list of “hate groups” that places prominent conservative and Christian organizations alongside the Ku Klux Klan. The list includes Christian groups like D. James Kennedy Ministries, the Family Research Council (FRC), Liberty Counsel, the American Family Association (AFA), Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the Ruth Institute, and more. It also includes conservative groups like the American College of Pediatricians and the Center for Immigration Studies.
The SPLC has also marked as an “extremist” Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz, former Muslim women’s rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Christian neurosurgeon (now Secretary of Housing and Urban Development) Ben Carson, and academic Charles Murray.
The group has a long train of embarrassing apologies. It paid $3.375 million to Nawaz after listing him as an “anti-Muslim extremist” for going to a strip club for his bachelor party. It apologized to Ben Carson after marking him an extremist for saying that marriage should be between one man and one woman. It apologized to the innocent town of Amana Colonies after marking it on a “hate map” as the site of the white nationalist website the Daily Stormer. It also apologized to Stonewall Elementary School for marking it on a Confederate monument “hate map” when the school was named after a stone wall, not General “Stonewall” Jackson.
The Ben Carson apology proved particularly revealing. While the SPLC claims it only lists “hate groups” based on prejudice or hatred against a group of people based on their unalterable characteristics, its “hate group” labels have grown to smear organizations for advocating for marriage as between one man and one woman. Tellingly, the SPLC cited the marriage portion of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in branding the Ruth Institute an “anti-LGBT hate group.”
SPLC continues to attack ADF and FRC, citing decades-old quotes connecting the homosexual movement to pedophilia (which it briefly was in the 1990s), suggesting that these organizations consider all LGBT people a threat to children. This smear is false, and it has directly inspired at least one terrorist attack.
In 2012, a man named Floyd Lee Corkins II entered the Family Research Council’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., with a semi-automatic pistol and a bag of Chick-fil-A chicken sandwiches. He later told the FBI that he intended to kill everyone in the building and that he targeted the FRC because it was on the SPLC’s “hate map.”
Yes, he told this to the same FBI that relies on SPLC as a resource against terrorism.
The SPLC condemned the attack, but insisted that the FRC is a “hate group,” and has refused to remove the Christian pro-family organization from its list of “hate groups.” In fact, after the SPLC came under fire for the Nawaz settlement, its president, Richard Cohen, cited FRC as the prime example of why the SPLC needs to reveal “hate groups.”
The SPLC has an extremely interesting history of working with the federal government. The group has long provided anti-terrorism guidance and materials to various agencies, and in recent years the government has stepped away from the SPLC.
After the 2012 terrorist attack, the U.S. Army decided in 2013 to stop branding Christian groups “extremist,” dissociating itself from the SPLC’s smears against the American Family Association. That year, Secretary of the Army John McHugh dissociated the service from the use of SPLC materials on two occasions.
In 2014, the FBI removed the SPLC from its list of “trusted resources” on its “Hate Crimes” page.
In 2016, even the Obama DOJ reprimanded the SPLC and other groups that “overstepped the bounds of zealous advocacy” in demanding the silencing of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). Their motions “made uncivil statements that disparaged FAIR and its staff” by calling the group “a ‘hate group,’ ‘anti-immigrant,’ ‘white supremacist,’ ‘eugenicist,’ ‘anti-Semitic,’ and ‘anti-Catholic.'”
“None of this language was related or relevant to the underlying factual or legal matters or FAIR’s amicus briefs, and its sole purpose was to denigrate FAIR and its staff,” wrote Jennifer Barnes, disciplinary counsel at the DOJ.
Last October, the Pentagon officially severed all ties to the SPLC, removing any references to the SPLC in training materials used by the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI).
It seems both tragic and ironic that the FBI, now under fire for apparent bias in the 2016 presidential election, may be the only federal agency still relying on the left-wing smear factory.
To be fair, the Southern Poverty Law Center does rightly monitor violent racist groups. To its credit, the group does not just monitor the KKK and other white supremacist groups, but also black supremacist organizations.
The FBI need not necessarily cut all ties to the SPLC — although that would be a good idea. If the bureau at least acknowledges that it only uses the SPLC for race-based terrorism, that may put people like Tucker Carlson somewhat at ease.
It is incumbent on the FBI to engage in damage control here. The FBI is an important institution that all Americans — conservative as well as liberal — should be able to trust. It should be free of any taint of partisanship, and the SPLC screams unreliable partisan bias.
On Friday, Tucker Carlson did not just report the SPLC’s relationship with the FBI, he also interviewed Nawaz, the brave Muslim reformer whom the SPLC slandered as an “anti-Muslim extremist.”
Nawaz noted that the SPLC marking him an “anti-Muslim extremist” “places targets on the head.” He already fears reprisal from jihadists, but now he had to watch out for left-wing terrorists like Floyd Corkins. He noted that the SPLC “placed me in grave danger,” and it also placed Ayaan Hirsi Ali “in grave danger.”
The FRC, ADF, D. James Kennedy Ministries, the Ruth Institute, and more have just as much reason to complain and fear danger. Social media companies like Twitter, YouTube, and Amazon have adopted the SPLC “hate group” list. Democrats have cited it in Congress.
The FBI has an opportunity now to clarify its position and distance itself from a left-wing smear group. If it wants to prove its nonpartisan credibility, now is the time.