News & Politics

SPLC Co-Founder Morris Dees Fired, Outside Audit Ordered

SPLC Co-Founder Morris Dees Fired, Outside Audit Ordered
Morris Dees, co-founder Southern Poverty Law Center appears on stage during the "Hate in America" panel at the Investigation Discovery 2016 Winter TCA on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016, in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

On Wednesday, the far-left smear factory Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) fired its co-founder and former chief litigator, Morris Dees.

“Effective yesterday, Morris Dees’ employment at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) was terminated,” SPLC president Richard Cohen told The Montgomery Advertiser in a statement on Thursday. “As a civil rights organization, the SPLC is committed to ensuring that the conduct of our staff reflects the mission of the organization and the values we hope to instill in the world. When one of our own fails to meet those standards, no matter his or her role in the organization, we take it seriously and must take appropriate action.”

Dees, 82, co-founded the SPLC in 1971. The organization gained a reputation for taking the Ku Klux Klan to court and then it started labeling and tracking “hate groups.” In recent decades, it started listing conservative and Christian organizations along with the KKK, and last year it settled a defamation lawsuit for $3.375 million.

Dees’s departure is not the only big news Cohen broke on Thursday, however.

“Today we announced a number of immediate, concrete next steps we’re taking, including bringing in an outside organization to conduct a comprehensive assessment of our internal climate and workplace practices, to ensure that our talented staff is working in the environment that they deserve – one in which all voices are heard and all staff members are respected,” Cohen said in the statement.

“The SPLC is deeply committed to having a workplace that reflects the values it espouses – truth, justice, equity and inclusion, and we believe the steps we have taken today reaffirm that commitment,” he concluded.

In 1994, the Montgomery Advertiser took a deep dive into the organization’s activities, uncovering some evidence of discrimination against black employees.

Last December, a Baltimore lawyer filed a lawsuit taking aim at the SPLC’s tax-exempt status. His suit is moving toward the discovery period, and SPLC’s decision to clean house may have resulted from this litigation, first reported by PJ Media.

Last year, court documents revealed that Dees once tried to use a sex toy on his step-daughter. His firing may be related to that.

Sexual misconduct seems the likely reason for his ouster. According to, Dees has had five wives:

During his senior year of high school, Dees married Beverly Crum. The couple had two sons together before divorcing in the late 1960s. Dees next married Maureene Buck, a former employee. Dees and Buck had one daughter together. After they divorced, Dees married his third wife, Mary Farmer, the director of an abortion clinic. Following the end of his marriage to Farmer, he wed Elizabeth Breen. Dees’s fifth wife is Susan Star.

According to Big League Politics, he may have had an affair with an employee, but the rumor on that has not been confirmed.

This story is breaking and will be updated with more information.

Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.