News & Politics

After Firing Co-Founder, SPLC Hires Michelle Obama's Chief of Staff to Review Workplace Culture

After Firing Co-Founder, SPLC Hires Michelle Obama's Chief of Staff to Review Workplace Culture
In this June 23, 2014, file photo, Tina Tchen, chief of staff to first lady Michelle Obama, speaks at The White House Summit on Working Families at a hotel in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

Last week, the far-left smear factory Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) fired its co-founder and announced a company workplace culture review in order to improve conditions for employees. This Monday, the SPLC announced it had hired Tina Tchen, former first lady Michelle Obama’s former chief of staff, to perform the review. This choice makes sense, but it only underscores the SPLC’s very liberal bias.

“The events of the last week have been an eye-opening reminder that the walk towards justice must sometimes start at your own front door and force you to look at your past so you can improve your future,” Bryan Fair, the SPLC’s chairman of the board, told staff in a message on Monday, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Fair said Tchen will “hold a mirror” to the organization and its leaders. “No one’s actions, no matter that person’s position at the SPLC, including those of us on the board, will be exempt from scrutiny and accountability,” he wrote.

This review is very welcome, especially considering how many former employees have slammed the company’s “toxic work environment” on GlassDoor. Those employees have called for the firing of SPLC President Richard Cohen.

Internal emails revealed that Morris Dees was “accused by female employees of some level of mistreatment.” Dees has had five wives and court documents revealed allegations that he sexually assaulted his daughter-in-law.

The SPLC has also taken criticism for refusing to promote black employees to top management positions.

It makes sense for the SPLC to bring in Tina Tchen, a female minority lawyer who worked for the first lady of America’s first black president. However, the decision also highlights the fact that the SPLC is not a neutral and unbiased “hate” watchdog.

In recent decades, the group has listed conservative and Christian organizations along with the Ku Klux Klan on its “hate group” list. These false labels have inspired defamation lawsuits, and last year the organization paid $3.375 million to Maajid Nawaz, a Muslim reformer it branded an anti-Islamic extremist. This settlement inspired about 60 organizations to consider lawsuits of their own.

“Instead of taking the opportunity to dig deep and recalibrate, SPLC is proving their critics right,” Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), told PJ Media. The SPLC falsely labels this conservative Christian nonprofit a “hate group.” In fact, a terrorist tried to kill everyone at FRC, targeting the group because of the “hate group” label.

Perkins argued that the choice of Tchen shows that the SPLC has “absolutely no interest in weeding out the bias and extremism that’s poisoned the group for years.”

“For an organization that’s never shown interest in a fair evaluation, the choice isn’t all that surprising,” he added. “Instead of hiring an outside investigator with an open mind, SPLC is intentionally rigging the outcome – an approach it’s certainly familiar with after years of framing opponents. For anyone still clinging to the group’s last gasp of credibility, that ought to tell them all they need to know.”

“If SPLC were truly interested in reinventing themselves and earning back society’s trust, they would hire a neutral party – not a political hack, who will help them bury their skeletons,” Perkins concluded.

“We are not surprised that a highly political leftist organization like the Southern Poverty Law Center would hire a highly political leftist lawyer like Tina Tchen to perform the investigation into the wrongdoings of the SPLC founder, Morris Dees,” Thomas Hern, grassroots director for ACT for America, another group falsely labeled a “hate group,” told PJ Media. “This just further discredits the legitimacy of this once noble organization.”

Glen Allen, a Baltimore lawyer who sued the SPLC last year for defaming him and destroying his career, expressed some hope about Tchen’s investigation, however.

“I think Ms. Tchen, if she is honest and diligent, will find what many of us have long believed, that the SPLC is the Harvey Weinstein of the nonprofits,” Allen told PJ Media.

He turned to address his mammoth lawsuit — which brings nine counts against the SPLC for defamation, conspiracy, and employment discrimination and requests the IRS remove the organization’s tax-exempt status. “I believe the SPLC’s work culture is relevant to and supportive of my claims. I intend to inquire into it at the appropriate time.” The SPLC is taking the lawsuit seriously, hiring a high-powered lawyer to defend it.

“I hope the SPLC is transparent and fully publishes the results of Ms. Tchen’s investigation, as it should as a tax-favored 501c3 organization,” Allen concluded.

As for herself, Tchen said she is “honored to be asked by SPLC to do this work.” She said she has “admired it from afar for many years. It’s an important civil justice institution in our country.” Apparently, she hasn’t heard about the lawsuits and the terrorist attack.

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