On Wednesday, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) pressed Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos on his company’s shameful reliance on the far-left smear factory the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to exclude nonprofits from the AmazonSmile charity platform. The SPLC smears mainstream conservative and Christian groups as “hate groups,” placing them on a list with the Ku Klux Klan. In May, Amazon’s board of directors rejected a proposal to fight viewpoint discrimination and stop using the SPLC list.
Gaetz brought up the SPLC during a Big Tech hearing with the House Judiciary Committee.
“Mr. Bezos, I am deeply moved by your personal story, I am not here accusing you as someone who would traffic in hate but it seems you have empowered people who do, and I am particularly talking about the Southern Poverty Law Center,” the congressman began.
“The Southern Poverty Law Center, which you allow to dictate who can receive donations on your AmazonSmile platform, have said the Catholic Family News, Catholic Family Ministries, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, the American Family Association, the Family Research Council, the Jewish Defense League, even Dr. Ben Carson, are extremists and should be treated differently,” Gaetz explained.
“Dr. Carson is on the cabinet, is one of the most renowned minds in America. I’m just wondering why you would place your confidence in a group that seems to be so out of step and seems to take mainstream Christian doctrine and label it as hate,” he asked.
“Sir, it’s a good question,” Bezos replied. He explained that the AmazonSmile program “allows customers to designate a certain fraction of their purchases to go to charity that we pay for. And they can select from any one of millions of charities. And we use the Southern Poverty Law Center data to say which charities are extremist organizations. We also use the U.S. Foreign Asset office to do the same thing.”
Gaetz pressed, “But why? Since they’re calling Catholics and these Jewish groups…”
“Sir, I’m going to acknowledge this is an imperfect system,” Bezos replied. He said he would welcome alternative suggestions.
“My suggestion would be a divorce from the SPLC,” Gaetz quipped.
Bezos can’t explain why he continues to use SPLC after they defined Jewish & Catholic charities as hate groups pic.twitter.com/sbPoW66VFq
— Jewish Deplorable (Parler: TrumpJew) (@TrumpJew) July 29, 2020
The congressman returned to the issue later in the hearing.
Turning back to Bezos, he asked, “You don’t believe Dr. Ben Carson is an extremist, do you?”
“No sir, I don’t,” the Amazon CEO responded.
“So help me understand why you would partner with a group that labels him as someone worthy of an extremist watchlist?”
“Well, uh, I want you to hopefully appreciate when we’re trying to make it possible for people to donate to any number of a million different charities, and we need to have some source of data to use,” Bezos replied. “And while I accept what you’re saying that the Southern Poverty Law Center and the U.S. Foreign Asset Office are not perfect, and I would like a better source if we could get it that is what we use today.”
“It’s great to hear that you do recognize the infirmities of the Southern Poverty Law Center,” Gaetz replied. He suggested that Facebook and Google use the SPLC as well.
Turning to Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, he asked, “Mr. Zuckerberg, do you believe that Doctor Ben Carson is an extremist?”
“No, congressman,” Zuckerberg replied.
“So why would you trust the people who think he is?” Gaetz pressed.
“Congressman, I’m not aware of where we work with the organization that you’re saying,” the Facebook CEO responded.
What is the SPLC?
While the SPLC did indeed attack Ben Carson as an “extremist,” it later begrudgingly apologized. However, Gaetz was right to press Bezos on Amazon’s connections with the SPLC for other reasons.
As I reported both here at PJ Media and in my book Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center, the SPLC began as a noble civil rights organization. Yet over the years, the SPLC drifted from its original mission of helping poor people in the South to bankrupting the Ku Klux Klan and eventually to exaggerating hate to scare donors into ponying up cash.
Last year, the SPLC fired its co-founder, Morris Dees, amid a decades-long sexual harassment and racial discrimination scandal. After Dees was fired, former employees came forward, admitting their complicity in the “con.” The SPLC’s “hate group” list not only exaggerates the number of “hate groups” by listing defunct or essentially non-existent groups along with the KKK, but it also tars the reputations of law-abiding mainstream conservative and Christian organizations like the Family Research Council (FRC), Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), the Center for Security Policy, and ACT for America.
The “hate group” accusation inspired an attempted terrorist attack at FRC. Even left-leaning activists like former ACLU President Nadine Strossen have condemned the accusation against ADF, and the SPLC continues to pad its “hate group” numbers by listing dozens of ACT for America chapters that no longer exist. In 2018, the SPLC paid $3.375 million to settle a defamation lawsuit from Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz, whom the SPLC defamed as an “anti-Islamic extremist.”
Due to these and other scandals, many organizations have called on Amazon to drop the SPLC, not all of them conservative. The non-partisan New Tolerance Campaign urged the tech company to drop the “hate group” list, calling its use a “clear case” of “the unequal application of tolerance in mainstream American culture.” One of the organizations unfairly accused by the SPLC, the Christian charity D. James Kennedy Ministries, has sued Amazon along with the SPLC for defamation.
The SPLC silences conservative groups using “guilt by association,” equating mainstream conservative and Christian groups with true hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan. In January, the SPLC testified before Congress that its number of “hate groups” is a statistically significant measure of the increasing threat of white supremacist terrorism, and used that number as an argument for Big Tech censorship.
“Amazon consistently brags about its commitment to ‘diversity and inclusion,’ but I don’t think its board of directors knows what that means. By relying on the SPLC to decide which charities are eligible to receive donations through AmazonSmile, the company is expressing public and open hostility toward conservative and religious organizations,” Justin Danhof, an owner of Amazon stock through the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), said in a statement.
What about Facebook and Google?
As for Facebook and Google, their relationship with the SPLC remains unclear.
Last March, when Facebook announced a new policy restricting “hate groups,” the company assured PJ Media that it would not use the SPLC to determine which organizations are “hate groups.”
“We don’t rely on any one outside group in the development of its policies. For each of the content policy decisions we make, we engage with dozens of outside groups from across the political spectrum,” Facebook spokeswoman Ruchika Budhraja told PJ Media. She said Facebook did not consider ADF, ACT for America, or CIS to be “hate groups.”
Even so, Big Tech employees have a documented bias toward liberal ideas and Democrats. In 2018, Google employees gave 96 percent of their political contributions to Democrats, while Facebook employees bankrolled Democrats with 95 percent of their contributions, and Amazon employees sent 89 percent of their political dollars to Democrats.
In February 2019, a self-described liberal who worked in Big Tech told the Lincoln Network that fellow employees consider the SPLC to be “objective.”
Gaetz’s questioning should encourage Bezos to think twice about his company’s reliance on this far-left smear factory. The congressman is right: Amazon, and Big Tech in general, needs a “divorce from the SPLC.”
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.