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Southern Poverty Law Center Faces Racism, Corruption, Sexual Harassment Claims

Richard Cohen SPLC (Win McNamee / Getty)
Win McNamee / Getty
JOEL B. POLLAK

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), long used to accusing other organizations of “hate” — sometimes falsely — now faces accusations of racism, corruption, and sexual harassment and the departure of several senior leaders.

The New York Times reported last week:

On March 14, a group of employees wrote to the [SPLC]’s leaders and warned that “allegations of mistreatment, sexual harassment, gender discrimination and racism threaten the moral authority of this organization and our integrity along with it.”

After the center announced that it had fired Morris Dees, its charismatic co-founder, for misconduct, another group of employees sent a separate letter accusing the center’s leadership of being “complicit in decades of racial discrimination, gender discrimination, and sexual harassment and/or assault.”

Mr. Dees, 82, has denied any wrongdoing.

Bob Moser, a former SPLC staffer, wrote in the New Yorker last week: “The work could be meaningful and gratifying. But it was hard, for many of us, not to feel like we’d become pawns in what was, in many respects, a highly profitable scam.”

The president of the SPLC, Richard Cohen, has resigned. So, too, did the SPLC’s deputy legal director, and a member of the SPLC’s board of directors.

For years, the SPLC — once a widely-respected civil rights organization — has smeared conservative organizations that it falsely designated as “hate groups” merely for holding mainstream views that differ with those of the radical left. In 2012, a crazed leftist used the SPLC’s “hate map” in an attempted mass shooting at the Family Research Council (FRC) in Washington, DC; the FRC was on the list merely because it supports traditional marriage.

In 2018, the SPLC agreed to pay British anti-extremist Muslim Maajid Nawaz $3.3 million after mis-identifying him as an “anti-Muslim extremist.” In 2015, it apologized for including Ben Carson on its list of extremists.

Despite these glaring, destructive errors, mainstream media and wealthy corporations continued to treat the SPLC as a legitimate organization — and often partnered with the SPLC to blacklist conservative groups and individuals.

Just last month, PayPal CEO Dan Schulman admitted that his company worked with the SPLC to identify, and to blacklist, conservatives. Google has also worked with the SPLC to flag content on its platforms, as has Facebook. Giant corporations like Apple, and Hollywood celebrities like George Clooney, have continued to pour donations into the SPLC’s coffers: the embattled organization reportedly enjoys a massive half-billion-dollar endowment.

In recent years, Reason.com notes, the SPLC “capitalize[d] on growing liberals fears about hate crimes” in the Trump era. Now that the SPLC stands accused of the same hatred it once purported to be fighting, its future is in doubt.

And the outlook is not good. The organization has hired Michelle Obama’s former chief of staff, Tina Tchen to lead an internal inquiry — the same Tina Tchen who intervened in the Jussie Smollett prosecution in Chicago.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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