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Southern Poverty Law Center: ‘Our Aim in Life Is to Destroy These Groups, Completely’

A map of organizations across the United States which the Southern Poverty Law Center considers "hate groups."

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has gained traction in recent weeks, but contrary to media reports, the group does not exist to "monitor hate groups" but to destroy groups that it targets for "strictly ideological" reasons. In light of large donations from Apple, J.P. Morgan, and George Clooney, and CNN's favorable coverage of the SPLC, Americans should learn the real motivations behind this far-left organization.

In the words of SPLC former spokesman Mark Potok (who spent 20 years as a senior fellow at the SPLC and only retired this year, according to LinkedIn), the group does not exist to monitor hate groups.

"Sometimes the press will describe us as monitoring hate groups, I want to say plainly that our aim in life is to destroy these groups, completely destroy them," Potok declared at an event in Michigan in 2007.

Potok reiterated this point at a Vermont school group in 2008. "You are able to destroy these groups sometimes by the things you publish," he declared. "It's not so much that they will bring down the police or the federal agents on their head, it's that you can sometimes so mortally embarrass these groups that they will be destroyed" (emphasis added).

The SPLC "mortally embarrasses" groups by equating mainstream conservative, Christian, and other organizations with the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacists. Make no mistake, this is not a "hate group monitoring" organization, it's a far-Left defamation racket that exists to target any group it disagrees with politically.

"We see this political struggle," Potok added in his 2008 Vermont speech. "We're not trying to change anybody's mind. We're trying to wreck the groups. We're trying to destroy them. Not to send them to prison unfairly or to take their free speech rights away, but as a political matter to destroy them."

In yet another 2008 speech, Potok explained the SPLC criteria for a "hate group." The spokesman said, "Our criteria for a 'hate group,' first of all, have nothing to do with criminality, or violence, or any kind of guess we're making about 'this group could be dangerous.' It's strictly ideological" (emphasis added).

Here's the criteria: "So we look at a group and we say, 'Does this group, in its platform statements, or the speeches of its leader or leaders — Does this group say that a whole group of people, by virtue of their group characteristics, is somehow less?"

The SPLC's actions have revealed what "group characteristics" means. The "hate group" list  features Christian organizations like D. James Kennedy Ministriesthe Family Research Council (FRC), Liberty Counsel, the American Family Association (AFA), and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), along with other groups like the American College of Pediatricians and the Center for Immigration Studies. It also lists Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz and women's rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali as "anti-Muslim extremists."

If an organization disagrees with LGBT activism, it is a "hate group," because in the eyes of the SPLC belief in traditional marriage equates to stigmatizing gay people. If an organization or an individual warns against radical Islamic terrorism, that person or group is "hateful" because in the eyes of the SPLC it has stigmatized all Muslims, even if the person is a Muslim himself.

In light of these revelations, it makes sense that D. James Kennedy Ministries, Liberty Counsel, and Maajid Nawaz have each filed defamation lawsuits against the SPLC.

The SPLC's broad definition of a "hate group" is exceedingly important, because this "hate" labeling has inspired at least one terror attack.

In the summer of 2012, the SPLC's "hate map" inspired Floyd Lee Corkins III to break into the Family Research Council (FRC), a Christian nonprofit in Washington, D.C. Corkins aimed to murder everyone in the building, and he later pled guilty to committing an act of terrorism. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

During an FBI interrogation, the terrorist said he targeted FRC because it was listed as an "anti-gay group" on the SPLC website.

While the SPLC took no responsibility for their hate map inspiring the FRC shooting and refused to remove the FRC from that hate map, the group did claim that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's political action committee released maps putting Democrats in Congress in crosshairs, inspiring the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Az.). PolitiFact rated the SPLC's claim "false."

Nor was the 2012 attack the only terrorist event involving the SPLC. Earlier this summer, Bernie Sanders supporter James Hodgkinson shot people at a Republican Congressional Baseball Game practice, nearly killing Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) Hodgkinson "liked" the SPLC on Facebook.

The group had repeatedly tarred Scalise for a speech he gave to a white supremacist group, even after Scalise apologized (and was called a "sellout" by former KKK leader David Duke).

This connection to terror is particularly troubling, considering the SPLC's most recent "hate map" — a diagram showing every single Confederate monument across the United States, which also includes elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools. The SPLC warned of "turmoil and bloodshed" should these statues not be taken down.

The group has also been rather slow to admit fault and remove innocent towns from the "hate map" that inspired the FRC shooting. The SPLC falsely listed the historic Iowa town of Amana Colonies as the home of the notorious white supremacist website Daily Stormer. When challenged, the group argued that Daily Stormer writers had met for a book club in one of the town's restaurants. The SPLC finally removed the town this week.

In spite of all this, the SPLC has been raking in the cash after the riots in Charlottesville, Va. George Clooney and his wife Amal pledged $1 million to the group, and the company J.P.Morgan pledged $500,000. Apple CEO Tim Cook was even more generous, announcing his company would give $1 million to the SPLC and that it would set up a system in iTunes software to let consumers directly donate to the organization.

Earlier this month, Lyft announced it would partner with the SPLC "to provide educational resources for drivers." MGM Resorts announced that it would match employee contributions to the SPLC dollar-for-dollar. Some companies already follow this policy.

According to an analysis by Second Vote provided to PJ Media, companies such as Disney, Kraft Heinz, Charles Schwab, Progressive Insurance, Shell, and Verizon have matched their employees' small-dollar donations to the SPLC. The big offenders are: Pfizer, which gave the SPLC $8,919.5 in 2013 and 2015 combined; Bank of America, which gave the SPLC $9,310 between 2013 and 2015; and Newman's Own, which gave the group $50,000 between 2013 and 2015.

Each of these contributions pale in comparison to the gifts from George Clooney, J.P. Morgan, and Apple, but they are still noteworthy.

To make matters worse, the SPLC does not need any of this money. The group is a cash cow, recording more than $50 million in contributions and $328 million in net assets (according to its 2015 Form 990). The Washington Free Beacon reported multiple transactions to foreign entities, including two cash payments of $2.2 million to funds in the Cayman Islands.

CNN broadcast the SPLC's "hate map" on its website and Twitter account this month (with the FRC still marked on the map). In June, the charity navigation website GuideStar adopted the SPLC "hate group" list, marking each profile of the targeted organizations as a "hate group." ABC and NBC parroted the SPLC's "hate group" label against Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) last month.

"The SPLC depicts itself as a big champion of rights, but it's become a champion of wrongs," Dan Gainor, vice president of Business and Culture at the Media Research Center, told PJ Media in an email statement. "It is no longer the civil rights era group that many of its supporters believe. It now exists largely to attack groups it doesn't agree with and to fundraise millions and millions of dollars off of uninformed donors."

Gainor warned that "the media make this far worse by legitimizing the group's so-called 'hate list.' In reality, that list is a bizarre mix of good conservative groups and disturbing fringe organizations. The SPLC sees no difference between a group defending the rights of Christians in court and the Klan."

"The media credential this awful hate group and rarely report that some of the SPLC's biggest fans are dangerous criminals," Gainor added. He mentioned Floyd Lee Corkins and James Hodgkinson.

Apple, J.P. Morgan, George Clooney, Lyft, MGM Resorts, and any organization that partners with the SPLC should know what it's getting into.

Corporate America should not support a group that exists to tar mainstream organizations as "hate groups," inciting violence against them. It should not bankroll an organization that targets innocent towns and elementary schools as purveyors of hate. It should not support a "poverty" organization that sends millions of dollars to accounts in the Cayman Islands. Enough is enough.