The Media Again Buries the Truth About the SPLC

In recent years, liberal activists have used the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to launch pressure campaigns demanding that charitable funds blacklist conservative nonprofits. CBS News reported on the latest attack, focusing on the outrage about Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund sending money to "hate groups" while burying the serious hits to the SPLC's credibility — arguments included in a statement to CBS from one of the organizations wrongly smeared by the SPLC.

Critics "say that Fidelity's clients are using the investment company's donation vehicle to send money to groups that are not classic community trust favorites like local food banks or medical causes," CBS News's Stephen Gandel reported. "The Fidelity-affiliated charitable fund granted more than $330,000 over two years to the Family Research Council, a 'research and education organization' in Washington, D.C., who's [sic] leader Tony Perkins has called homosexuality 'objectively harmful' and advocated for 'restraining' the freedoms of Muslims in America."

Gandel included a long quote from the SPLC's Heidi Beirich but gave short shrift to FRC.

"From our perspective this is a tragedy," said Heidi Beirich of the SPLC, an advocacy group that monitors extremist organizations. "Fidelity is making the decision to follow the wishes of its donors, but we think Fidelity should make the choice not to pass funds to groups that's purpose is to legitimize discrimination and feed violence against the LGBT or immigrant communities."

A spokesperson for the Family Research Council declined to address questions about the statements of its founder, instead saying in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch that the SPLC is "corrupt" and "cannot be relied upon as a source." A spokesperson for the Center for Immigration Studies declined to comment.

The article went on to note that the donations under fire came not from Fidelity's corporate account, nor from its top executives, but from the Fidelity Investments Charitable Fund, a $30 billion donor-advised fund, the largest in the nation. While FRC received a comparatively paltry $330,000 in two years, the SPLC received $3 million in just 2018.

CBS News quoted a Fidelity spokesperson who said the charitable fund is "cause-neutral" and directed concerned people toward the IRS or state charity regulators. The article also cited the "Hate Is Not Charitable" campaign involving 25 donor networks worth $1 billion pledging to cut funds from organizations the SPLC accuses of being "hate groups." Despite mentioning this campaign — spearheaded by the union-owned Amalgamated Bank and inspired by a report from Sludge which leaned heavily on the SPLC — Gandel noted the complaints that funds had "funneled millions of dollars to more than 30 anti-Muslim, anti-LGBT and other hate groups," without mentioning the SPLC as the source.

The SPLC is a notoriously corrupt organization which has weaponized its history of suing KKK groups into bankruptcy in order to blacklist conservative and Christian organizations as "hate groups." This smear inspired a shooting at FRC in 2012.

This March, the SPLC cleaned house at the top, firing its co-founder and bidding farewell to its president and legal director after an explosive scandal involving claims of sexual harassment and racial discrimination. An internal investigation into the organization's office culture — run by Michelle Obama's former chief of staff — is ongoing. Employees attempting to unionize have recently met with management's resistance. Importantly, the March scandals led former staffers to reveal that the "hate group" list is a cynical fundraising scam.

The SPLC also faces many defamation lawsuits due to its "hate group" accusations. Last year, it settled one suit, paying Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz $3.375 million and delivering an embarrassing apology after defaming him as an "anti-Muslim extremist."

Importantly, this CBS News article covering SPLC-inspired blacklisting efforts did not include one reference to the scandal or the many defamation lawsuits.

The article only included eight words from an extensive FRC statement explaining why the SPLC is "corrupt" and should not be trusted. FRC sent PJ Media the entire statement it sent to CBS News:

“Today’s Southern Poverty Law Center is aggressively anti-Christian and morally bankrupt – both inside and out. The SPLC has been imploding from within, with its own  former employees saying the group is racist, bigoted, and rife with sexual misconduct and discrimination.   The problems have become so significant that employees are  currently seeking to unionize.   Earlier this year, SPLC’s founder  was fired, and its  president and  top lawyer resigned, but there is little sign that the group is moving beyond its reputation as a ‘ highly profitable scam.’

"The SPLC’s settlements in the millions of dollars show it has a great deal of difficulty discerning the truth about individuals and organizations. For example, Maajid Nawaz and the Qulliam Foundation received a $3.375 million settlement from the SPLC last year.   At one point, the SPLC even added Dr. Ben Carson to its ‘extremist’ list because of his biblical views (and only took him off the list after public outcry).

“It should also not be forgotten that the SPLC was connected in federal court to domestic terrorism when the shooter who attacked the Family Research Council (FRC) in 2012 pled guilty to the crime while confessing that he relied on the SPLC’s discredited ‘hate map’ to target FRC.

“The Southern Poverty Law Center is so corrupt that it simply cannot be relied upon as a source.”

-  Lt. Gen. (Ret.)  William G. Boykin, Executive Vice President, Family Research Council

News outlets are not required to print the entirety of statements sent by sources, but when CBS News covers liberal blacklisting efforts inspired by the SPLC, they should at least mention the many scandals facing that organization. By summarizing the FRC statement that the SPLC is corrupt while excluding any evidence of the SPLC's corruption, CBS News suggested that FRC's claims were baseless. This is both dishonest and disgraceful.

Sadly, this is far from the first time the media has protected this corrupt organization. In October, the SPLC and the Council on American-Islamic Relations pressured Mar-a-Lago to cancel an event with ACT for America. CAIR tried again, targeting the Center for Security Policy (CSP). In both cases, The New York Times, the Palm Beach Post, and the Miami Herald reported SPLC talking points against the conservative groups, ignoring the scandals.

In media interviews, CSP President Fred Fleitz recounted his organization's work fighting anti-Semitism, but none of the outlets printed those remarks.

Follow Tyler O'Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.