On Wednesday, more than 60 nonprofit leaders released an open letter to the media, urging news outlets to stop relying on the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) “hate group” labels. The letter calls for a politically-neutral investigation of the SPLC and the release of pertinent documents to the public.
“Today’s SPLC is aggressively anti-Christian and morally bankrupt – both inside and out. It attacks anyone who disagrees with its far-left agenda, smearing them with lies and grossly mischaracterizing their work,” reads the letter, provided to PJ Media. “All the while SPLC has also been imploding from within, with allegations of sex and race discrimination – which have hounded them for years – finally boiling over with the firing of [co-founder Morris] Dees and the resignation of [President Richard] Cohen.”
The “SPLC has lost all credibility. We call on all media, corporations, social media companies, and financial institutions to immediately stop relying on their discredited and partisan ‘hate’ and ‘extremist’ lists,” the letter reads.
In recent weeks, the SPLC fired its co-founder, Morris Dees, President Richard Cohen stepped down, and Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson removed herself from the Board of Directors. The organization faces many defamation lawsuits regarding its “hate group” labels applied to mainstream conservative and Christian organizations.
The “hate group” labels inspired a terrorist attack in 2012 and have led credit card companies and tech companies to blacklist conservatives. Last year, it paid $3.375 million to settle a defamation lawsuit — after calling Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz an “anti-Muslim extremist.” The fact that this “hate group” watchdog has a racism and sexism scandal further underscores its horrible reputation.
In 2017, the charity navigation website GuideStar marked each organization on the SPLC list as a “hate group” on its website. Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit. Shortly thereafter, the Christian nonprofit D. James Kennedy Ministries — one of the organizations that signed on to the letter — filed a lawsuit against Amazon and the SPLC, after realizing that it was excluded from Amazon Smile over the SPLC list.
After the Nawaz defamation settlement, about 60 organizations started considering lawsuits of their own. Last December, Baltimore lawyer Glen Keith Allen filed a mammoth lawsuit against the far-left smear factory. Last month, the SPLC hired a high-powered lawyer to defend itself from Allen’s suit, suggesting it takes this attack very seriously. The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), one of the organizations that signed on to the letter, is suing for wire fraud under RICO. Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes is also suing for defamation. The American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) sued the Michigan Department of Civil Rights after the department announced investigations into SPLC-designated “hate groups.”
In September 2017, a similar group of nonprofit groups sent a letter warning the media against using the SPLC as a trustworthy resource. Since then, the SPLC settled the Nawaz lawsuit and the racism and sexism scandal has racked the organization.
Last month, the far-left smear factory announced that Tina Tchen, Michelle Obama’s former chief of staff, would be leading the internal investigation into the SPLC’s office culture. Tchen had encouraged State’s Attorney Kim Foxx to get the FBI involved in the Jussie Smollett hate hoax.
The letter mentions Tchen, warning that “this choice raises serious concerns about the neutrality of the investigation. And the choice appears particularly problematic given Tchen recently making headlines for interfering with the Chicago Police Department’s Jussie Smollett investigation.”
The recent shake-up began after black senior attorney Meredith Horton resigned and sent a letter to senior leadership decrying racism and sexism in the organization. Other SPLC employees sent letters to senior management, echoing Horton’s complaints.
The letter encourages the SPLC to take three specific actions if it “is interested in restoring its lost credibility with the public and remaining SPLC staff.”
The 67 leaders called on the far-left smear factory to publicly release Meredith Horton’s letter, to publicly release the two other letters from SPLC staff and “any similar unpublicized documents received by management in the past twenty years,” and to “appoint a responsible investigator to examine the various news reports over the years that have pointed to deep flaws in the SPLC and publicly lay out who within the Center who knew what and when about these work conditions.”
This investigator should delve into John Egerton’s “Poverty Palace: How the Southern Poverty Law Center Got Rich Fighting the Klan” published in Progressive back in 1988, the 1994 Montgomery Advertiser expose series from Dan Morse, Bob Moser’s New Yorker article, and the Big League Politics’ expose of court documents from Morris Dees’s ex-wife, Maureen.
This important letter comes one day after Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) sent a letter to the IRS, encouraging an investigation into whether or not the SPLC should lose its tax-exempt status for its fundraising based on “defamation.”
“The SPLC’s 501c3 status rests on its claim to be pursuing an educational mission, but for decades it has wandered far from that mission into highly partisan, hypocritical, and in some cases fraudulent activities,” Glen Allen, the Baltimore lawyer suing the SPLC, told PJ Media on Tuesday. “Its exploitation of its 501c3 status brings discredit to the entire nonprofit sector. It is no more a 501c3 than is a supermarket tabloid.”
Companies that have given money to the SPLC in the past have remained silent on the recent scandal.
The organizations signing the letter include the Family Research Council (FRC), the organization targeted in the 2012 terrorist attack, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), D. James Kennedy Ministries, AFLC, Liberty Counsel, ACT for America, Jihad Watch, the Ruth Institute, and more. The media, corporations, social media companies, and credit card companies should pay attention.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.