On Friday, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Miami Herald demonstrated yet again why the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is a discredited far-left smear machine by drawing the logical conclusion that the Republican Party is a “hate group.” The SPLC routinely demonizes its political opponents as “hate groups,” and has webpages dedicated to “Hate in the White House.” In fact, lawsuits and investigations have probed whether the group has violated its 501(c)3 tax-exempt status by relentlessly attacking Republicans and not Democrats.
The Miami Herald‘s Leonard Pitts, Jr.— who won a Pulitzer for commentary in 2004 — begins his op-ed by citing the SPLC’s definition of a “hate group”: “an organization that — based on its official statements or principles, the statements of its leaders, or its activities — has beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”
Then comes the question: “Is the Republican Party a hate group?”
This column wasn’t just printed in the Miami Herald. Pitts’ syndicated column appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune, The Roanoke Times, The Seattle Times, The Houston Chronicle, The Palm Beach Post, and more.
“Granted, in its ‘official statements or principles,’ the party doesn’t meet the SPLC standard,” Pitts concedes. “Its activities and the statements of its leaders are, however, another matter.”
Naturally, he references President Donald Trump’s “go back” comments to “four women of color” — insinuating racism — and the rally with chants of “Send her back!” Never mind that Trump later said of the chant, “I was not happy with it. I disagree with it.”
Then Pitts launches into the “Southern Strategy” canard, seeking to explain how the Republican Party suddenly became racist when the Democratic Party had been the party of the Ku Klux Klan.
“For half a century, then, the GOP has taught white voters racial resentment, taught them to prioritize concerns about white prerogative over concerns about shuttered factories, dirty water, lack of health care, foreclosed futures,” he alleges. Hilariously, he mentions “tax cuts” as some kind of racist code language “obvious to all but the most gullible.”
He suggests that conservative politics is driven by racism — a racism that Republicans don’t even know they have. “So politicians accepted the votes, but never had to acknowledge the means of their manufacture. White voters gave them the votes, but never had to confront the reasons they did so.”
“Donald Trump is the payoff of that devil’s bargain,” Pitts declares. “His ‘innovation’ has been to shred subtlety and abandon code. With blunt, brutish clarity, he tells four black and brown women to ‘go back’ where they came from, and if you don’t see racism there, you’ll never see it anywhere.”
Never mind that Trump was criticizing their policies, not their skin color, and even suggested House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — who had been in a spat with “The Squad” over their radical refusal to join other Democrats — would pay to “send them back.”
Trump’s tweets were disgusting and nativist, but they were not racist — and they do not excuse the horrific attacks “The Squad” has launched against American law enforcement and the State of Israel. Calling ICE detention centers “concentration camps” and comparing the anti-Semitic Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions movement against Israel to boycotts of Nazi Germany are horrific. Yet Pitts is not calling the Democratic Party a “hate group,” and the SPLC is not ceaselessly sounding the alarm about Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
Pitts concludes his op-ed by claiming that “the GOP seems to have abandoned policy altogether.” Never mind the tax cuts, Trump’s slicing of regulations, his Originalist judges on the Supreme Court and other courts across the land, and his responses to the crisis at America’s southern border. The economy is booming, after all.
Sadly, Pitts is closer to the mark in asking, “Do they still care about the national debt?” Trump is making some progress through cutting regulations and presenting a smaller federal budget, but real entitlement reform is necessary — although Pitts would, of course, denounce that as racist.
“So is the GOP a hate group? It’s sobering that the question can even be asked. But the inevitable answer is downright chilling. Because the SPLC offers a fair and cogent definition of that term. And the GOP fits it with room to spare,” Pitts concludes.
Last year, Baltimore attorney Glen Keith Allen filed a mammoth lawsuit against the SPLC, claiming the organization abetted theft to smear him as a “Neo-Nazi lawyer.” Among other things, he also noted that the SPLC consistently attacked Republicans — and only Republicans — as “hateful” during the 2016 campaign. His lawsuit demands a court judgment against the group’s 501(c)3 tax-exempt status, since organizations exempt from taxes under that section must refrain from supporting or opposing political candidates.
Just last year, the SPLC strained to connect Trump to the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, despite Trump’s Jewish family and the shooter’s hatred for Trump. The group has attempted to tie opposition to Drag Queen Story Hour and transgender activism to white nationalism, and it routinely demonizes conservative and Christian organizations as “hate groups” — even when a former ACLU president defends targeted groups like Alliance Defending Freedom.
In April, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) sent a letter to the IRS, requesting an investigation into the SPLC’s 501(c)3 tax-exempt status for political activism. This followed an embarrassing scandal involving allegations that the SPLC, a noted civil rights organization, had fostered a culture of racial discrimination and sexual harassment — for decades.
Pitts was right: the logical conclusion of the SPLC’s smears is that the Republican Party is a “hate group.” That doesn’t make the accusation any less ridiculous, however. After all, the logical conclusion of the SPLC’s attacks on Christian groups is that the Roman Catholic Church should be designated a “hate group” as well.
Perhaps instead of trusting the SPLC and following its demonizing rhetoric, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnists should doubt a civil rights organization with a history of racism and sexism. In an era of increasing political polarization, Americans should reject the SPLC. At the very least, the IRS should investigate and consider revoking its tax-exempt status.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.