Last week, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, co-sponsored a bill focused on cataloging hate crimes. In presenting the bill, she and her fellow Democrats referenced the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a far-left defamation outlet that has a record of trusting hate crime hoaxes and ignoring bias incidents against white people and Jews targeted by pro-Palestine activists on college campuses.
“The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported a sharp uptick in reported hate crimes in the fourth quarter of 2016. Researchers have shown that reported hate crimes following President Trump’s election made up the second largest surge since the FBI began collecting data in 1992. Yet the FBI’s annual Hate Crimes Statistics report vastly understates the true incidence of this problem,” reads Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.)’s press release for the “Khalid Jabara-Heather Heyer NO HATE Act,” S.2043.
“In 2017, the report reflected that approximately 7,000 hate crimes occurred nationwide, when the SPLC believes the number is closer to approximately 250,000 per year,” the release added.
Working off the premise that the FBI statistics vastly underrepresent hate crimes, Senate Democrats would set up a new reporting system. While the text of the current legislation has yet to be published, the “NO HATE Act” from the previous session of Congress would create grants for state-level hate crime hotlines, triple damages for civil cases involving a bias incident, and otherwise incentivize reporting.
Naturally, the SPLC seized on this bill, with its SPLC Action Fund urging the bill’s passage. The Action Fund’s Lecia Brooks even referenced her congressional testimony last month, which cited the SPLC’s deceptive and allegedly defamatory “hate group” statistics as evidence of a growing violent threat from white supremacy. (While the “hate group” reports started as a way to monitor the Ku Klux Klan, the SPLC has expanded them to include conservative Christian organizations and national security groups.)
Senate Democrats’ decision to cite the SPLC as an authority on hate crimes is significant. Not only has the SPLC recently faced allegations of sexual harassment and racial discrimination — leading the group to fire its co-founder and forcing its president to resign — it also has a shoddy track record on this exact issue.
The SPLC has proven particularly trigger-happy and gullible when it comes to unconfirmed “hate crimes” that validate its liberal biases. The organization has blamed President Donald Trump for an “epidemic” of hate crimes, often citing incidents that turn out to be hoaxes.
For instance, a week before the 2016 election, the black church Hopewell Missionary Church in Miss. was burned and spray-painted with “Vote Trump.” Weeks later, police arrested a black member of that very church in connection with the case. In March, he pled guilty to arson. The SPLC had seized on the case, leading its report on harassment and intimidation in the wake of the election.
“The incident was just a harbinger of what has become a national outbreak of hate, as white supremacists celebrate Donald Trump’s victory,” the SPLC breathlessly reported. The Wall Street Journal‘s Jeryl Bier rightly denounced this fake news, and noted that The Washington Post followed the SPLC’s lead in this situation. Writing for The Weekly Standard, Bier noted three other hate crime hoaxes the SPLC referenced in the same report. One involved a gay man spray-painting “Heil Trump” on an Episcopal church in Indiana.
By contrast, the SPLC routinely ignores harassment and threats directed at Jewish and pro-Israel students on college campuses by liberal pro-Palestinian activists, a Family Research Council report found. The SPLC also omitted some 2,000 anti-white bias incidents following the 2016 election, according to The New York Post.
Wilfred Reilly documented hundreds of recent hate crime hoaxes in his book Hate Crime Hoax: How the Left is Selling a Fake Race War. In that book, he cited extremism researcher Laird Wilcox who describes “hoaxes like these as the predictable results of a market process where there exists a reward or payoff for victimization such as media coverage, popularity, or the chance to publish enemies. The temptation to create it where none exists will be very strong.”
In an interview with PJ Media, Wilcox explained why the hate crime tactics of the SPLC and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) are deceptive and not to be trusted. Wilcox himself has documented hundreds of hate crime hoaxes — in the decades leading up to the early 2000s.
“The ADL and SPLC both report incidents of hate crimes when the perpetrator and motive are unknown,” Wilcox explained. “Certain kinds of offenses, particularly graffiti, are so easy to get away with that any anti-Semitic, Nazi or KKK graffiti is highly likely to be a hoax, especially in the school environment — yet SPLC and ADL both count them and add them to their tally without question. This in itself constitutes a kind of hoax.”
“Exaggerating the significance of a particular offense, like graffiti, is simply dishonest,” the researcher continued. “There is no gradation of hate offenses, i.e., graffiti, actual property damage (cannot be fixed with a simple cleanup), serious damage, arson, arson of an inhabited dwelling, and so on. Everything is a ‘hate crime.'”
College students seem particularly keen on staging hate crime hoaxes. Even while colleges have wised up to the practice, they still seems to encourage fake incidents by claiming these hoaxes are a response to real racism.
“Years ago every college hate crime hoax was published somewhere, often only in the college newspaper. Now many of them are never published anywhere, are kept quiet and handled administratively so no one knows about the hoax,” Wilcox noted. “Also, even when a hoax is discovered and made known, administrators often treat the incidents as a justified response to the ‘perception of discrimination’ or ‘consciousnesses raising.'”
Such defenses actually incentivize more hoaxes, as activists attempt to prove an epidemic of racism where none actually exists.
“Another issue is the expanding definition of ‘hate,’ as in the micro-racism and so on. This stops any kind of honest discussion or debate,” Wilcox concluded. “The whole hate crimes issue is so inflated, distorted and confused that even defining it enough to write about it is difficult.”
Yet Senate Democrats seem keen on not only trusting the SPLC, with its biased record of exaggerating hate crimes that fix the left’s oppression narrative and ignoring those that are politically inconvenient, but also on creating a system to draw attention to bias incidents. Such a system would only make grievances worse, as activists would report false hate crimes or interpret innocent remarks as verbal violence — as in the case of “microaggressions.”
Finally, while Sen, Kirsten Gillibrand is the only 2020 candidate who co-sponsored the new bill, other 2020 candidates co-sponsored the previous version, including Sen.s Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.). It seems likely they would support the current bill as well, and perhaps agree with the SPLC’s hate crime hoax narrative.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.