News and Commentary

7 Things You Need To Know About The Southern Poverty Law Center

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) recently classified the organization White Lives Matter as a hate group, but refused to apply the same classification to Black Lives Matter.

Based on The Washington Post‘s report, the White Lives Matter group appears to be filled with white supremacists and people who have ties to neo-Nazi groups, so the hate group label could very well be a perfect fit. But what about Black Lives Matter, whose members have explicitly called for dead cops, the lynching of white people, and endorse racial segregation? For some reason, the SPLC’s president, Richard Cohen, does not believe the label equally applies to the Leftist group.

“There’s no doubt that some protesters who claim the mantle of Black Lives Matter have said offensive things, like the chant ‘pigs in a blanket, fry ’em like bacon’ that was heard at one rally,” Cohen wrote in a blog post. “But before we condemn the entire movement for the words of a few, we should ask ourselves whether we would also condemn the entire Republican Party for the racist words of its presumptive nominee — or for the racist rhetoric of many other politicians in the party over the course of years.”

The reality is that the SPLC is a leftist hack advocacy group which picks and chooses what standards to apply to its labels, consistently turning a blind eye to leftist and pro-Democrat groups and individuals while targeting, often unfairly, their enemies on the right. Here are seven things you need to know about the SPLC.

1. The SPLC was founded by a leftist who sought out leftist donors to enrich himself. As Rosslyn Smith at the American Thinker explained in 2012, the SPLC was founded by Morris Dees, a lawyer who donated money to Jimmy Carter and unsuccessfully lobbied for the attorney general position in Carter’s administration. Dees courted northern leftists who donated to George McGovern’s failed presidential campaign because he thought they “would get a vicarious thrill from sending a check to the Alabama-based SPLC to fight the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists.”

As Smith explains, the SPLC peddles leftist donors under the false guise that the organization is short on cash and demonizes certain organizations – such as anti-amnesty groups – now that the KKK has faded into irrelevancy in an appeal to white guilt:

In his 2000 article, [Ken] Silverstein noted that during its then-29 years of existence, the SPLC had carefully adjusted its operations to fit the needs and self-image of its largely urban, white, and often Jewish donor base. Causes that garnered favorable early media attention but which also risked upsetting some donors, such as filing suits protesting the death penalty, were dropped, even if that meant the mass resignation of staff attorneys. Images of angry blacks and other minorities never appear in solicitations. Nor do concrete issues related to race and poverty get much attention in these appeals. Donors aren’t called on to actually fight to improve housing, improve inner-city schools, or end violence at the borders. Everything is geared to the equal-opportunity and secular sin of being intolerant of those who are different. According to Silverstein, the payoff is also always the same — the SPLC is all about making guilty white donors feel good about themselves for being understanding by writing a check to the wealthy and largely white SPLC. Actual attempts to help the oppressed and downtrodden aren’t just optional. They are almost superfluous.

The fear-mongering worked, as the SPLC raked in over $54 million in total revenue 2014.

2. The SPLC vastly overstates the number of hate groups in the country. One of the reasons for this is that the SPLC has a bad habit of labeling groups with conservative positions as hate groups. As Human Events wrote back in 2011:

For example, based on the report, if you state that kids do best when raised by a mom and dad (as opposed to two moms or two dads), you are propagating a known falsehood. Or if you agree with the many therapists and psychologists who argue that a child’s upbringing and early-life experiences (including being sexually abused) play a major role in the development of his or her sexual orientation, you are propagating a known falsehood. The same is true if you claim that hate crime laws could lead to the arresting of pastors who criticize homosexuality (this has already happened in Sweden, England and Canada), or if you argue that it would be detrimental to the military to have gays serving openly. Yes, according to the SPLC, disseminating such views officially constitutes “hate.”

The SPLC has also labeled Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, the John Birch Society, and as hate groups in 2015 even though they are “nonviolent” organizations, according to’s Jesse Walker.

“Nonviolent groups can be a stepping-stone to violence, but they can also pull people away from violence; in several cases, nonviolent activists have even turned would-be terrorists in,” writes Walker. “[SPLC’s Mark] Potok never tries to account for those dynamics.”

Walker also points out that the SPLC also has a bad habit of duplicating certain organizations in their overall count of hate groups. For instance, the SPLC claimed that there was a rise in KKK organizations, but Potok admitted that this was based on the fact two large KKK groups splintered off into several smaller groups.

National Review‘s Patrick Brennan observed a similar phenomenon in 2013:

Only on the site where you find the raw data, and in none of their media releases, do they make it clear that the “1,007 hate groups” number counts individual chapters of national or regional groups. For instance, “the American Nazi Party is listed six times, and the Council of Conservative Citizens is listed 37 times. There are many more. When you filter the list for organizations with identical names, the list of 1,007 becomes a list of 358.” Or look at “‘Georgia Militia,’ which is listed 14 times. One listing has a county as its location, another says ’statewide,’ and the remaining 12 list no location and contain no links to additional information.”

Additionally, the SPLC overstated the number of lone wolf terror attacks in 2015, as they used a metric that included “gang slayings, domestic violence, and other apolitical or ambiguous assaults in which the killer also happens to subscribe to an ‘extremist’ worldview,” according to Walker.

3. The SPLC is not interested in classifying a leftist organization as a hate group. In 2011, National Review‘s Charles Cooke pressed the SPLC as to why they weren’t tracking the Occupy Wall Street movement after a group affiliated with the movement plotted to blow up a bridge in Cleveland, Ohio. After a back-and-forth with a male representative from the SPLC, Cooke got the representative to admit: “We’re not really set up to cover the extreme Left.”

The representative even tried to argue that Occupy Wall Street wasn’t a political movement and answered “Yes I suppose so” when Cooke asked him if “the SPLC covers a group if there is even a minute ‘right-wing’ component.”

Cooke felt that “there was a little bit of a syllogism going on” in the SPLC, as he felt that in their mind “‘Left’ equals ‘good,’ and ‘Right’ equals ‘bad,’ and therefore anything ‘Left’ couldn’t be ‘bad’ unless it were infiltrated by the ‘Right.’

“In my time covering Occupy Wall Street I have seen anti-Semitism, black nationalism, class hatred, and threats of violence; there have been rapes, a few murders, and now some domestic terrorism,” wrote Cooke. “One would have thought that these things would be sufficient warrant for a group like the Southern Poverty Law Center to stand up and take serious note, but, as I learned yesterday, there’s one problem: They’re just ‘not set up to cover the extreme Left.'”

4. A shooting occurred at the Family Research Council (FRC) in 2012 after the organization was labeled a hate group by the SPLC. The shooter, Floyd Lee Corkins, admitted that he wanted to “kill as many as possible and smear the Chick-Fil-A sandwiches in victims’ faces, and kill the guard” after he saw the FRC listed on the SPLC’s website as a “hate group.”

“Southern Poverty Law lists anti-gay groups,” Corkins said in an FBI video. “I found them online, did a little research, went to the website, stuff like that.”

Leo Johnson, a security guard at the FRC, was shot by Corkins and survived. Corkins was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

The SPLC defended its designation of the FRC as a hate group even after the shooting.

5. In 2014, the SPLC actually listed Dr. Ben Carson under their “Extremist Files” list. Via The Christian Science Monitor:

In February 2015, after criticism of his inclusion, the group apologized to the candidate. The SPLC said that while some might consider Dr. Carson’s statements, including several that referenced Adolf Hitler, and comments on gay marriage, to be extreme, he should not have been branded an extremist.

The Hitler comments are a reference to when Carson said, “The likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed.” This is hardly an extreme comment, in fact it’s accurate. Carson’s opposition to gay marriage is also not a viewpoint worthy of being put on an extremist list.

After being publicly shamed, the SPLC reluctantly removed Carson from the list.

6. The FBI removed the SPLC as a “resource” in 2014 for their “hate crime Web page.” The FBI refused to comment on it, but according to The Blaze, the move came “after 15 conservative groups lobbied Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director James Comey to end the endorsement.”

7. The actual hate group is the SPLC. As Human Events concluded in 2011:

All of which begs the question: Is the SPLC, by its own criteria, the real hate group? It still carries weight in plenty of circles here in America, and so when it categorizes an organization as a hate group, many people of good conscience are influenced by that designation, one which is quite stigmatizing and destructive, as evidenced by the recent events involving FOTF and AFA mentioned above. Yet it is the leaders of the SPLC who are either irresponsibly attacking other fine organizations, or worse still, knowingly defaming them.

Who then deserves the title of “hate group,” Focus on the Family or the Southern Poverty Law Center? Who has been guilty of demonizing others and spreading hurtful, inaccurate information? Whose actions and words have been hateful? The record speaks for itself.

The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  7 Things You Need To Know About The Southern Poverty Law Center