The SPLC’s Fake Internal Review

Tina Tchen, former chief of staff to first lady Michelle Obama, at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., in 2014. (Jonathan Ernst/REUTERS)
The Southern Poverty Law Center has released no results of an investigation it commissioned into its staff’s corruption.

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE A lmost exactly one year ago, the Southern Poverty Law Center fired its co-founder and promised an internal review to examine allegations of racial discrimination and sexual harassment at the civil-rights organization. Yet nearly a year later, this review has released no results.

Allegations of racial discrimination and sexual harassment at the SPLC date back decades, as I documented in my book Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Yet the firing of Dees brought former SPLC staffers out of the woodwork. Bob Moser came forward with a devastating exposé in The New Yorker, confessing to his own complicity in “the con” of exaggerating “hate” in order to bilk donors into signing big checks. “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 S.P.L.C.—making hate pay,’ we’d say,” Moser recalled. The SPLC has an endowment of roughly half a billion dollars, and millions in bank accounts in the Cayman Islands.

The SPLC is most widely known for its list of “hate groups,” a list that captures “everything wrong with liberalism,” according to Current Affairs editor Nathan Robinson. He noted how the SPLC list includes “hate groups” that consist of one person with a blog, one person with a Confederate memorabilia shop, and an organization supposedly led by a cult leader who died in prison in 2017.

The SPLC has also accused mainstream conservative and Christian nonprofit organizations such as Alliance Defending Freedom, the Family Research Council, ACT for America, and the Center for Security Policy of being “hate groups” on par with the Ku Klux Klan. Acting on the SPLC’s supposed credibility, Amazon has excluded mainstream conservative Christian nonprofits from its charity program, Amazon Smile. The event-managing site Eventbrite blacklisted ACT for America, citing the SPLC’s accusation that it is an “anti-Muslim hate group,” because it warns against radical Islamist terrorism. Hyatt Hotels did the same. Last year the New York Times, the Miami Herald, and the Tampa Bay Times repeated SPLC talking points against ACT for America and successfully pressured Mar-a-Lago to cancel a gala with the conservative group.

Google has even worked with liberal groups such as ProPublica to try to shut down conservative websites targeted by the SPLC. Credit-card companies such as Mastercard and Discover have refused to process donations to “hate groups” targeted by the SPLC.

It is high time for an independent investigation into the SPLC’s various forms of corruption, but the promised investigation has yet to materialize. Why?

After the SPLC promised an investigation, the organization selected Tina Tchen, a co-founder of the #MeToo organization Time’s Up and Michelle Obama’s former chief of staff, to lead it. Tchen may seem an ideal choice, given her credentials in the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment. Yet her political bias arguably poses a problem.

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s critics accused the organization of trying to brush its scandals under the rug. “Instead of taking the opportunity to dig deep and recalibrate, SPLC is proving their critics right,” Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), told PJ Media after the Tchen announcement. He argued that the choice of Tchen shows that the SPLC has “absolutely no interest in weeding out the bias and extremism that’s poisoned the group for years.”

Perkins knows this “bias and extremism” first-hand. In August 2012, a deranged man entered FRC’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., armed with a semi-automatic handgun and a bag filled with Chick-fil-A chicken sandwiches. He intended to slaughter everyone in the building and smear chicken sandwiches into the faces of his dead victims. A brave security guard foiled his attack, but not before getting shot in the arm. The would-be terrorist later confessed that he targeted FRC because of the SPLC’s “hate group” accusation.

“Instead of hiring an outside investigator with an open mind, SPLC is intentionally rigging the outcome — an approach it’s certainly familiar with after years of framing opponents,” Perkins argued. “For anyone still clinging to the group’s last gasp of credibility, that ought to tell them all they need to know.”

Many Americans may not agree with Perkins, whose organization advocates for traditional marriage and against LGBT activism. Yet the SPLC’s accusation against FRC is extreme and wrongheaded. The SPLC accuses FRC and other organizations of fomenting “hate,” but they merely advocate against same-sex marriage for reasons that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy acknowledged are “decent and honorable” in his decision legalizing same-sex marriage in 2015.

When the SPLC announced that Tchen would lead the investigation, Glen Allen, a Baltimore lawyer who sued the SPLC in 2018 for defaming him and destroying his career, expressed some hope about the investigation.

“I think Ms. Tchen, if she is honest and diligent, will find what many of us have long believed, that the SPLC is the Harvey Weinstein of the nonprofits.”

Yet Tchen’s findings have not yet been released. The SPLC did not respond to a request for comment on the timetable of her investigation, either.

Perkins accused the SPLC of choosing “a political hack, who will help them bury their skeletons.” As of now, the SPLC has refused to prove him wrong.

Tyler O’NeilTyler O'Neil is a senior editor of PJ Media, an author, and a conservative commentator. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

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