In the lead-up to the Million MAGA March on Saturday, the home-sharing and vacation rental company Airbnb unceremoniously booted a Trump supporter from its platform because he offered to host members of a “hate group” for the event. Airbnb canceled the man’s reservation and deleted his account after Twitter users complained about his use of the platform. The man later clarified that he is not a member of the Proud Boys, an organization the far-left smear factory the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has accused of being a hate group.
The man in question, identified as Ronald Gaudier, offered to host march attendees in a public Telegram chat run by the Proud Boys.
“I rented an apartment through AirBNB walking distance. There is room there for a couple other guys if you are interested message me,” Gaudier wrote on Tuesday. “I’m booked 13-15.”
Twitter users posted screenshots of the chat, warning Airbnb of Gaudier’s offer. Users attacked Airbnb for apparently agreeing to host someone loosely affiliated with the Proud Boys.
“Hey [Airbnb] what are your thoughts on members of white supremacist hate groups like the ‘Proud Boys’ using your platform?” We Will Be Ruthless, a Twitter account with more than 10,000 followers, tweeted at the home-sharing platform.
The company responded by announcing a total ban on Gaudier.
“We really appreciate you bringing this to our attention. Anyone affiliated with hate groups has no place on Airbnb. We’ve identified the reservation, cancelled it, and banned the user from our platform,” Airbnb announced.
We really appreciate you bringing this to our attention. Anyone affiliated with hate groups has no place on Airbnb. We've identified the reservation, cancelled it, and banned the user from our platform.
— Airbnb (@Airbnb) November 11, 2020
Ben Breit, a spokesman for Airbnb, told PJ Media that Gaudier “was removed because of the Proud Boy association and our ban on hate groups.”
Yet Gaudier made it clear that he is not a member of the Proud Boys.
“It turns out I was somehow outed to AirBnB and they canceled not only my reservation but my membership because they ‘won’t support members of hate groups.’ Funny thing is I’M NOT A PROUD BOY nor do I intend to ever be one!” he wrote on Telegram, The New York Post reported.
“I want to make it clear, I have no desire to be a Proud Boy. I was in the vetting room for a little while and when I saw some of the company I was with it gave me pause. But I 100 percent support your right to free speech,” Gaudier added, claiming that Airbnb’s ban was a “badge of honor.”
An Airbnb spokesperson told the Post that it would not cancel any reservations or ban people merely for attending the pro-Trump rallies without any connection to hate groups.
As for Gaudier, Breit told PJ Media, “Even if he is not a card-carrying member, he was offering rooms in his Airbnb to others in the Proud Boy forum.”
Breit did not respond to criticisms of the SPLC’s reliability on hate groups, however.
The SPLC has long branded mainstream conservative and Christian organizations “hate groups,” listing them along with the Ku Klux Klan. Former employees have come forward describing the hate group list as a scam, and many of the organizations on the list have filed defamation lawsuits.
Last March, the SPLC fired its co-founder, had its president step down, and had a prominent member of the board distance herself. The scandal broke out due to accusations of (decades-old) racial discrimination and sexual harassment.
The SPLC’s false accusations of “hate” have inspired at least one attempted terrorist attack. A man tried to kill everyone at a conservative Christian nonprofit due to the SPLC’s “hate group” accusation, intending to shoot everyone in the building and place a Chick-fil-A sandwich by his or her head.
My book, Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center, traces the history of this once-noble civil rights organization, explaining how it transformed into a far-left smear factory and why it is not a reliable arbiter of “hate.”
Yet many companies exclude any organization on the SPLC’s “hate group” list. Acting on the SPLC’s supposed credibility, Amazon has excluded mainstream conservative Christian nonprofits from its charity program, Amazon Smile. The event managing site Eventbrite blacklisted a mainstream conservative national security nonprofit, ACT for America, citing the SPLC’s accusation that it is an “anti-Muslim hate group,” because it warns against radical Islamist terrorism. Hyatt Hotels did the same. Last year, The New York Times, the Miami Herald, and the Tampa Bay Times repeated SPLC talking points against ACT for America and successfully pressured Mar-a-Lago to cancel a gala with the conservative group.
Google has even worked with liberal groups like ProPublica to try to shut down conservative websites targeted by the SPLC. Credit card companies like Mastercard and Discover have refused to process donations to “hate groups” targeted by the SPLC.
Yet some companies are reconsidering relying on the SPLC after hearing about the far-left smear factory’s scandals.
Gavin McInnes, founder and former leader of the Proud Boys, has sued the SPLC for defamation regarding the hate group accusation.
Among other things, McInnes’ lawsuit powerfully destroys any idea that the Proud Boys is a “white supremacist” group. The Proud Boys bylaws state that “a person that believes in the inherent supremacy of any one race over another, or who is a member of any organization promoting the supremacy of any one race over another, may not become or remain a member of this Fraternity. This includes, but is not limited to, any person who currently identifies as white nationalist, white supremacist, or alt-right (or any person who is a member of an organization identifying as such).”
The SPLC’s “hate group” list breaks organizations down according to the groups of people they supposedly vilify. The list includes “anti-Muslim hate groups,” “anti-LGBTQ hate groups,” “anti-immigrant hate groups,” and more. The SPLC does not assign any such specific label to the Proud Boys, referring to the group under the category of “general hate.” Among other things, the smear factory claims the Proud Boys is “known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric.”
Many Americans may look askance at the Proud Boys. After all, the fraternity describes itself as “Western Chauvinist.” Its more aggressive members seem all too eager to face the far-left antifa agitators in violent confrontations. Many left-leaning reporters and activists have blamed the Proud Boys for instigating violence, even when it seems antifa struck first. (The SPLC has not marked antifa a “hate group.”)
PJ Media asked Airbnb why it relies on the SPLC as the arbiter of hate, and the company did not respond. PJ Media also asked whether Airbnb aims to take any action against antifa agitators who might try to use its platform, and the company again refused to answer the question.
Whatever Americans may think of the Proud Boys, it is troubling that Airbnb would follow the SPLC’s skewed definition of “hate group,” that it would crack down on the Proud Boys while seeming to ignore antifa, and that it would delete a person’s account because he posted in a Proud Boys chat, even though he is not a member of the group.
It seems Airbnb is far too happy to engage in guilt-by-partial-association.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.