The Southern Poverty Law Center — an organization that labels anyone who disagrees with their radical leftist ideology as a “hate group” — is facing a reckoning.
Amid accusations of racism and sexism at the “anti-hate” organization, President Richard Cohen has now resigned, a little more than a week after the group fired co-founder and chief litigator Morris Dees. Cohen wrote the statement announcing Dees’ firing, making his resignation especially surprising.
“As a civil rights organization, the SPLC is committed to ensuring that the conduct of our staff reflects the mission of the organization and the values we hope to instill in the world. When one of our own fails to meet those standards, no matter his or her role in the organization, we take it seriously and must take appropriate action,” Cohen wrote of Dees’ firing.
Cohen’s statement also discussed “steps” the center would be taking to correct issues within the organization, which included bringing in an outside organization “to conduct a comprehensive assessment of our internal climate and workplace practices, to ensure that our talented staff is working in the environment that they deserve – one in which all voices are heard and all staff members are respected.”
The Washington Post obtained an email written by Cohen about his own resignation, which said: “Whatever problems exist at the SPLC happened on my watch, so I take responsibility for them.”
“And I hope that everyone will let the process play out before jumping to conclusions,” Cohen’s email continued. “We can’t be calling for a review and simultaneously casting blame before that review is complete.”
The Post also reported that SPLC’s legal director, Rhonda Brownstein, resigned Thursday as well.
A week before Dees was fired, a female black attorney resigned, sending an email explaining that “the experiences of staff of color and female staff have been particularly important to me” and that the organization must “ensure that SPLC is a place where everyone is heard and respected and where the values we are committed to pursuing externally are also being practiced internally.”
The day after Dees was fired, the Los Angeles Times reported on an internal memo sent to staff of the organization suggesting that “although he made unparalleled contributions to our work, no one’s contributions can excuse that person’s inappropriate conduct.”
Two dozen employees reportedly signed a letter to management and the center’s board of directors detailing “allegations of mistreatment, sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and racism.”
The “outside” help hired to review the company’s operating procedures was attorney Tina Tchen, who previously worked as former First Lady Michelle Obama’s chief of staff. Cohen’s resignation will reportedly make it easier for Tchen to do her job, as the organization’s board plans to meet to find a new president.
“Every workplace, including social justice organizations, must work hard to create a workplace culture that fully reflects their values and priorities, including when it comes to racial and gender diversity,” Tchen said when she was hired.
SPLC’s internal review appears aimed solely at how employees of the organization are treated, rather than how the center determines who is considered a “hate group,” a distinction that has led to targeted violence, a 2012 shooting at the Family Research Council’s Washington, D.C. headquarters.