The scandal-plagued Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) decided to release its fear-mongering “hate map” in the midst of the coronavirus crisis on Wednesday. Rather than helping in the midst of a crisis, the SPLC aimed to take advantage of people who are already on edge to push its fundraising scheme and political attacks.
Ironically, the SPLC acknowledged the coronavirus in its fundraising email about the new report. “As the coronavirus continues to spread, we are guided by our concern for the health and safety of our staff and the communities we serve, including you,” the email reads. “During this challenging time, we are committed more than ever to continuing our fight for justice and pushing back against those exploiting this pandemic to further their radical agenda.”
Yet the report has nothing to do with correcting misinformation on the pandemic and everything to do with furthering the SPLC’s own radical agenda, fomenting fear and mistrust in an already polarized America. As I documented in my book Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center, last year former SPLC employee Bob Moser came forward about being complicit in “a highly profitable scam” to bilk donors by exaggerating hate. He spoke out amid a racial discrimination and sexual harassment scandal that cleared out the SPLC’s leadership. The organization has yet to release the internal review it promised amid the scandal.
Instead, it released an updated version of the map of “hate groups” that inspired a terrorist attack in Washington, D.C. in 2012.
“It is appalling that the SPLC would choose this moment of crisis to launch their divisive and false ‘hate report.’ Instead, we call on SPLC to apologize, retract it immediately and join the rest of America in uniting against this common health threat. They should use their influence to assist American communities in productive ways, rather than sow discord and division among them,” Jeremy Tedesco, vice president of U.S. advocacy at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), told PJ Media.
ADF has played a role in 56 Supreme Court victories (10 in the last decade) but nonetheless finds itself on the list of “hate groups.” ADF’s ideological opponents have condemned the SPLC’s false accusation, but the SPLC continued to list ADF as a “hate group” in the report published Wednesday.
The SPLC’s new report — which covers the year 2019 — claims to find 940 “hate groups,” far fewer than the 1,020 “hate groups” in the 2018 report. The decline came from a split among neo-Nazi groups, which fell from 112 to 59. The report claims that white nationalist groups rose as did “anti-LGBTQ hate groups,” which the SPLC dubbed “the fastest-growing sector of hate.”
Amid the scandals last year, Current Affairs Editor Nathan J. Robinson zeroed in on “hate groups” that “barely seem to exist at all.” Of the ten groups Robinson identified, only four have been removed, including the most hilarious of his examples, the Wildman’s Civil War Surplus & Herb Shop. The one-woman website CarolynYeager.net is still on the list, as is Tony Alamo Christian Ministries — despite the founder’s death in prison in 2017. The African fashion boutique Luxor Couture remains on the list, as do the small “groups” Sharkhunters International, Hell Shaking Street Preachers, and Wotan’s Nation — whose website has expired.
ACT for America, a national security organization founded by Lebanese-American Brigitte Gabriel, accounts for 39 separate “hate groups,” even though ACT for America scrapped its chapter program in 2017 and officially shut all its chapters in 2018. The SPLC listed 47 different “hate groups” as part of ACT for America in 2018.
“Since our chapter members faced harassment in the aftermath of ‘hate group’ labels we scrapped our chapter model entirely,” Robert Maxwell, the group’s communications director, told PJ Media. “So we actually don’t have chapters anymore and have moved to an activist model which has performed stronger for us because it allows our members to act in unison without being limited by geographical barriers.”
As for the SPLC releasing the report amid the coronavirus, Maxwell said, “The SPLC is a classless organization so this report’s timing doesn’t shock me. I know they need to exaggerate claims of hate groups for donors but the fact that they still include defunct ACT For America chapters on their hate list shows you that they aren’t even keeping accurate records.”
The “anti-LGBTQ hate group” accusation may be the most notorious. SPLC spokesman Mark Potok once said the organization’s “goal in life is to destroy these groups, completely destroy them.” In 2012, a shooter targeted the Family Research Council (FRC) in Washington, D.C., aiming to shoot everyone in the building and smear a Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich in their faces. He found the group thanks to the SPLC’s “hate map.”
The 2019 increase in “anti-LGBTQ hate groups” is deceptive on many levels. While organizations like ADF and FRC do advocate for religious freedom and traditional Christian values, they do not promote hatred against LGBT people.
Brad Dacus, president of the “anti-LGBTQ hate group” Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), told PJ Media that his organization has “consistently promoted love and respect for everyone, including those in the LGBT movement.” He even recalled giving legal advice to a mother in a lesbian relationship. A social worker was threatening to remove her children from her, and PJI “provided the mother of two with counsel on what she needed to do to avoid wrongfully losing her children.”
“That’s not what a hate group does,” Dacus quipped. “We at Pacific Justice Institute not only defend people who might have different religious convictions but we also have made a concerted effort to reach out to exemplify how individuals can respectfully disagree even though they have very different beliefs.” He pointed to a video exposing the SPLC and announced that PJI would release a video series showing “how to lovingly and respectfully promote unity and true tolerance among people with different beliefs and perspectives.”
Yet the SPLC report lists five different “hate groups” under the PJI umbrella: three “chapters” in California, one in Oregon, and one in Washington. The SPLC is a year behind: the Oregon and Washington offices opened in 2018, while new ones in Reno, Nv., and Denver, Colo., opened in 2019.
The SPLC also mixed up the chapters of the “anti-LGBTQ hate group” MassResistance. The 2018 report lists four chapters of the group, while the new 2019 report lists no fewer than 12 “hate groups.” When reached by PJ Media, MassResistance Founder Brian Camenker insisted that no fewer than 8 of the SPLC’s listings were false.
“To be specific, we DO NOT have chapters in these places: Torrance, CA; Lexington Park, MD; Detroit, MI; Las Vegas, NV; Austin, TX; Dallas, TX; Fort Worth, TX; Seattle, WA,” he wrote. “We have done activism from time to time in most of those places (except Detroit and Seattle – where we did activism in nearby towns but not in those cities). But we do not have active chapters in any of them.” He also denied having a chapter in Denver, Colo., although MassResistance does have a Colorado chapter.
“Again, the SPLC is extremely sloppy in their research and has no problem outright lying. Their purpose is not to be accurate, but to cause hysteria and fear among clueless liberals,” Camenker argued.
The SPLC “hate map” includes many organizations that most Americans would abhor, such as Ku Klux Klan chapters and openly white nationalist groups. However, counting the number of groups arguably obscures the real nature of these movements. The Daily Stormer, a notorious white nationalist website that temporarily lost its hosting after the Charlottesville riots in 2017, counts for no fewer than ten “hate groups.” The American Identity Movement/Identity Evropa has roughly 800 members and accounts for 39 different “white nationalist hate groups” on the “hate map.” That equates to roughly 20 people per group. American Christian Dixie Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, which accounts for 9 “hate groups,” has a pitiful website and has been booted from Facebook and Twitter.
While the SPLC undoubtedly reports on many truly bad actors, much of its “hate map” involves exaggeration and political attacks. The report mentions Trump no fewer than 66 times. In one particularly telling passage, the report states, “It is time to move beyond the illusion that hate violence and extremism is merely a criminal crisis in America. It is also a political crisis. It has to be engaged politically.”
The SPLC email announcing the report brags about the far-left group’s efforts to “push internet companies like Facebook, PayPal, Twitter and others to protect members of targeted communities by preventing hate groups from using their digital platforms to raise money, recruit members and spread racist propaganda.”
While America struggles with the coronavirus, the SPLC is hard at work demonizing conservatives, fundraising off of a hate “scam,” trying to cover up its own scandals, and further pitting Americans against one another.
“This so-called hate map reinforces the fact that the SPLC cares only about surviving a major revolt from its own workforce,” Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin, FRC’s executive vice president, told PJ Media. “SPLC’s own employees have identified systematic and long-standing racist and sexist practices and policies. Rather than trying to help the nation in a chaotic and confusing time, SPLC is only dividing the nation.”
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.