Scandal-Plagued SPLC Turns to Amnesty International for a New President

The 2018 SPLC hate map.

Nearly a year after the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) fired its co-founder and saw its president step down amid a devastating racial discrimination, sexual harassment, and hate-for-pay scandal, the organization announced a new president this week. Seeking to revive its tarnished image, the SPLC turned to Amnesty International, a left-leaning human rights group without as much baggage. Margaret Huang, the current executive director of Amnesty International USA, will become the SPLC president and CEO in April.


“It is with both joy and sadness that I announce my departure from Amnesty International USA,” Huang said on Twiter. “I am excited to take on the role of president and CEO of [the SPLC] and to join the team there in fighting hate and discrimination in all of its forms.”

The SPLC has a rather myopic view of “hate,” and Huang is unlikely to bring about the necessary reforms to make the far-left group a reliable arbiter on this issue. Obsessed with “hate” on the right and seemingly oblivious to the fact that it exists on the left as well, the group notoriously accuses mainstream conservative and Christian organizations of being “hate groups” on par with the Ku Klux Klan. Former SPLC spokesman Mark Potok let slip, “Our aim in life is to destroy these groups, completely destroy them.”

In addition to this bias, the SPLC is notorious for exaggerating the number of “hate groups” by listing defunct or nonexistent organizations in order to scare northern liberals into cutting it big checks. The “poverty” law center has offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands and a nearly half-billion-dollar endowment. It has long faced harsh criticism for spending too little of its resources on programs and too many of them on fundraising and compensating its leadership. Add in the sexual exploits of Morris Dees and the constant complaints from black employees that this civil rights stalwart ran like a “plantation,” and Huang has got her work cut out for her.


Amnesty International was founded in London in 1961 to defend prisoners of conscience, but it has drifted ever further in the direction of liberal advocacy, just like the SPLC. Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), founded in 1966, has expanded to become the organization’s largest section, with 200,000 dues-paying members in 2016.

AIUSA has championed many liberal issues, encouraging broad immigration, seeking to abolish the death penalty, pushing to decriminalize prostitution, condemning Americans’ rights to privately-owned firearms as a “human rights crisis,” and fighting against any government restrictions on abortion. AIUSA has petitioned the federal government to adopt socialized medicine, claiming that “health care is a human right.”

Amnesty International has come under fire for condemning the alleged human rights abuses of open and democratic governments rather than the more abusive developing or authoritarian countries. In 2005, Amnesty International included the U.S. in its list of “human rights offenders” and then-AI Secretary General Irene Khan condemned the Guantánamo Bay prison as “the gulag of our times,” drawing harsh criticism from a real victim of a Soviet-era gulag.

When former President George W. Bush traveled to Africa in 2011, Amnesty International called for the governments of Ethiopia, Tanzania, or Zambia to arrest the former president for his alleged complicity in torture under his administration. “International law requires that there be no safe haven for those responsible for torture; Ethiopia, Tanzania and Zambia must seize this opportunity to fulfill their obligations and end the impunity George W. Bush has so far enjoyed,” Amnesty’s senior legal adviser Matt Pollard said.


Amnesty International has also condemned Israel and even attempted to silence Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, who supports a two-state solution to the Palestinian issue. AIUSA ran a campaign called, “Israel’s Occupation: 50 Years of Dispossession.”

As for Huang herself, her Twitter feed features celebrations of climate industrial complex activist Greta Thunberg, condemnations of ICE for “human rights violations,” attacks on gun rights, and more. (Huang awarded Thunberg the “Ambassador of Conscience” award last September.) She has proven most vocal in condemning Trump’s immigration policies. Last October, she was arrested on Capitol Hill while protesting the Trump administration’s scaling down of the refugee resettlement program.

Huang has consistently condemned Trump in her public statements, slamming his “Muslim ban” policy as “cruel, inhumane, and bigoted.” While the travel restrictions apply to countries of terror concern, be they Muslim or not, the AIUSA director condemned them as “a violation of the values of human rights and human dignity.” She further claimed that “this policy is rooted in hate, white supremacy, and racism.” She has repeatedly condemned the travel restrictions as “hateful.”

Huang should fit in with the SPLC, which branded the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) an “anti-Muslim hate group” for its legal defense of Trump’s rightful authority to impose travel restrictions in the “Muslim ban” case. AFLC is currently suing the attorney general of Michigan after she announced a “hate-crimes unit” to monitor groups the SPLC accuses of being “hate groups.” That lawsuit has entered the discovery process, so AFLC may uncover documents showing coordination between the SPLC and the attorney general.


Similarly, in congressional testimony last month, the SPLC asked Big Tech and government to clamp down on “hate groups” in the name of fighting “white supremacy.” The far-left smear factory cited its list of “hate groups” as if it were statistically-significant evidence of an increase in white supremacist terror, even though most of the groups on the list have nothing to do with racism or white supremacy. Sadly, many tech companies trust the SPLC — Amazon uses the “hate group” list to exclude charities from its AmazonSmile program.

The SPLC is in urgent need of real reform, but it seems its new president and CEO will only confirm its biased attacks on “hate.” Her presence there may satisfy some liberal critics, but it will not erase the liberal smear group’s devastating scandals.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.


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