Southern Poverty Center Just Got Personally Delivered BAD NEWS


Forty-seven prominent conservatives have signed an open letter warning the mainstream media against using data on hate groups compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

The letter calls the SPLC a “discredited, left-wing political activist organization that seeks to silence its political opponents with a ‘hate group’ label of its own invention,” Samuel Chamberlain at Fox News reports.


Founded in 1971, the SPLC gained fame by successfully prosecuting legal cases against white supremacist organizations, including the Ku Klux Klan. It describes its mission as “fighting hate and bigotry and … seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society.”

Today, the SPLC is best known for tracking hate groups, which the organization defines as having “beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristic.” Currently, the SPLC says 917 hate groups are operating in the United States.

SPLC’s “hate map” gained prominence in the media after last month’s deadly violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. However, critics say the organization has falsely slapped the “hate group” label on non-violent groups who hold traditional beliefs about hot-button issues such as gay marriage and abortion.

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Last month, a prominent evangelical ministry based in Florida filed a federal lawsuit accusing the SPLC of defamation after it was labeled an “active hate group.” In July, Fox News found that at least seven organizations are listed as hate groups by the SPLC despite explicitly prohibiting violence by their members.


The letter also warns that receiving the SPLC’s hate group label “endangers the lives of those targeted with it.” It references the 2012 shooting at the headquarters of the Family Research Council in Washington. The gunman, Floyd Lee Corkins, said he disagreed with the group’s opposition to gay marriage and prosecutors said he selected the group as a target using the SPLC “hate map.”

“By recklessly linking the Charlottesville melee to the mainstream groups named on the SPLC website,” the letter went on, “we are left to wonder if another Floyd Lee Corkins will soon be incited to violence by this incendiary information.

Here is the letter in it’s entirety: 

Dear Members of the Media:

We are writing to you as individuals or as representatives of organizations who are
deeply troubled by several recent examples of the media’s use of data from the Southern
Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The SPLC is a discredited, left-wing, political activist
organization that seeks to silence its political opponents with a “hate group” label of its
own invention and application that is not only false and defamatory, but that also
endangers the lives of those targeted with it.

The fifth anniversary has just passed of the terrorist event for which the SPLC’s hate
map and website were used to target its victims for political assassination. The
following facts were established in the record of a federal court case. On August 15,
2012, Floyd Lee Corkins II entered the Family Research Council offices in Washington,
D.C. and shot and badly wounded its building manager, Leo Johnson, who stopped his
intended killing spree.

According to his own statements to the FBI, Corkins intended to
kill everyone in the building, and then go on to terrorize additional organizations.
That day, Corkins carried both the means to carry out this act of terrorism and a list of
additional targets. The U.S. Attorney stated in federal court that Corkins targeted FRC
and the additional targets by using the SPLC website’s “Hate Map.” On February 6,
2013, Corkins pleaded guilty to three felonies, and became the first person convicted of
violating the District of Columbia’s Anti-Terrorism Act of 2002.

We believe the media outlets that have cited the SPLC in recent days have not intended
to target mainstream political groups for violent attack, but by recklessly linking the
Charlottesville melee to the mainstream groups named on the SPLC website – those that
advocate in the courts, the halls of Congress, and the press for the protection of
conventional, Judeo-Christian values – we are left to wonder if another Floyd Lee
Corkins will soon be incited to violence by this incendiary information.


More recently, James Hodgkinson, the attempted political assassin of House Whip, Rep. Steve Scalise
and many other Republican members of the U.S. House and Senate, was discovered by the public to have
“liked” the SPLC on Facebook. Paul Bedard, Washington Examiner, “Support for Southern Poverty Law
Center Links Scalise, Family Research Council Shooters” (June 14, 2017). Scalise had for years been the
subject of the SPLC’s vitriol. Tyler O’Neil, PJ Media, “CNN Goes Full ‘Fake News’” (Aug. 18, 2017)
If Corkins had been successful, his killing spree could have rivaled that of the Pulse Nightclub in
Orlando, Florida. See: Cratty, Carol and Michael Pearson, CNN, “DC shooter wanted to kill as many as
possible, prosecutors say” (February 7, 2013) (
Corkins was sentenced to 25 years in prison. The crime was so
significant that the former National Museum of Crime and Punishment, located in Washington, D.C., has
opened a multi-year exhibit on this act of domestic terrorism. Penny Starr, CNS News, “Domestic Terror
Attack on Family Research Council in New Exhibit at National Crime Museum” (March 20, 2015).

The SPLC is an attack dog of the political left. Having evolved from laudable origins
battling the Klan in the 1970’s, the SPLC has realized the profitability of defamation,
churning out fundraising letters, and publishing “hit pieces” on conservatives to
promote its agenda and pad its substantial endowment (of $319 million). Anyone who
opposes them, including many Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and traditional
conservatives is slandered and slapped with the “extremist” label or even worse, their
“hate group” designation.3 At one point, the SPLC even added Dr. Ben Carson to its
“extremist” list because of his biblical views (and only took him off the list after public

To associate public interest law firms and think tanks with neo-Nazis and the KKK is
unconscionable, and represents the height of irresponsible journalism. All reputable
news organizations should immediately stop using the SPLC’s descriptions of
individuals and organizations based on its obvious political prejudices.
Laird Wilcox, one of America’s foremost genuine experts on political extremist
organizations, has said of the SPLC: “What they do is a kind of bullying and stalking.

They pick people who are vulnerable in terms of public opinion and simply destroy
them.” Comparing his research to the SPLC group lists, Wilcox concluded that SPLC’s
work was completely unreliable.4
Writing at Harper’s, journalist Ken Silverstein also noted how fast and loose the SPLC
plays with derogatory labels like “hate” and “extremism:” “In doing so, the SPLC shuts
down debate, stifles free speech, and most of all, raises a pile of money, very little of
which is used on behalf of poor people.”

There are many others who agree with this determination and have raised questions
about the SPLC. On October 18, 2013, the Secretary of the Army, John McHugh, a
former member of the House of Representatives, disassociated his service from the use
of SPLC materials on two occasions. He wrote that “[m]edia accounts have highlighted
instances of Army instructors supplementing programs of instruction and including
information of material that is inaccurate, objectionable and otherwise inconsistent with
current Army policy.”

Furthermore, in March 2014, the FBI removed the SPLC as a
“trusted resource” from its Hate Crimes resources page.7 For years, experts and
journalists have cast doubt on the integrity of the SPLC’s methodology and the motives
of its founder, Morris Dees.8
Finally, we will leave you with the observations of the U.S. Ambassador to Israel who
had a great deal to say about the SPLC at an event in December, 2016. The SPLC
attacked numerous critics of radical Islam in one of its recent publications, “A
Journalist’s Manual: Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists,” but the seventh profile
was particularly disturbing.9 In it, the SPLC slandered human rights activist Ayaan
Hirsi Ali, a woman who has experienced the violent and misogynistic side of Islam firsthand.
The first sentence of the two-page section defaming her stated, “Ayaan Hirsi Ali is
a Somali-born activist who says she endured female genital mutilation and fled civil
wars and an arranged marriage in Africa.”
Ambassador Dermer was appalled by the attack launched upon Hirsi Ali by the SPLC.10
He made these observations about the SPLC at the end of a longer address to the Center
for Security Policy on December 13, 2016 in New York City:11

But the biggest shock of all came when I saw a name on that [SPLC] list of
someone I regard as a hero – Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
For those of you who do not know Ayaan, she was the Dutch parliamentarian who
in 2004 produced a film with Theo Van Gogh called Submission, which focused
on the oppression of women in the Muslim world.
Because of that film, Van Gogh was assassinated by a fanatic Muslim and Ayaan
was forced into hiding. She has had to live with death threats and under constant
protection ever since.

Paul Bedard, “‘Shocked’ Anti-Defamation League Slaps FBI ‘Diss’ on Hate Crimes,” Washington
Examiner (March 26, 2014).

A number significant articles on the SPLC: Mark Pulliam, City Journal, “Demagogic Bully,” (July 27,
2017) (; Ben Schreckinger, Politico
Magazine, “Has a Civil Rights Stalwart Lost Its Way?” (July/August 2017) (http://
215312); Karl Zinsmeister, Philanthropy Roundtable, “Some People Love to Call Names” (April 2017)
(; Charlotte Allen, Weekly Standard, “King of Fearmongers” (April 15, 2013):
18-25 (; J.M. Berger, Foreign
Policy, “The Hate List” (Mar. 3, 2013).

“A Journalist’s Manual: Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists,” Southern Poverty Law Center (Oct.
2016), at 20-21; (
(emphasis added).

Gavin Rabinowitz, Times of Israel, “Defending Anti-Muslim Group, Israel’s Envoy to US Slams Racism
Watchdog,” (Dec. 14, 2016) (
11 Remarks, Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, to the Center for Security Policy Gala
Dinner, YouTube (New York City; Dec. 13, 2016) (begin 19:5

Ben Carson had the unfortunate distinction of making the SPLC’s list in 2014, though the criticisms
from the public were so vehement that the SPLC was pressured into removing him. Fox News staff article,
“Southern Poverty Law Center Apologizes to Ben Carson, Takes Him off ‘Extremist’ List” (Feb. 12, 2015)

Laird Wilcox, Social Contract, “An Expert on Fringe Political Movements Reflects on the SPLC’s
Political Agenda” (Spring 2010) ( 182-191.

Ken Silverstein, Harpers, “‘Hate,’ Immigration, and the Southern Poverty Law Center” (March 22,
2010) (

Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh, Department of the Army, Memo for Distribution, “Standardization
of Equal Opportunity Training with the Army,” October 18, 2013 (

Yet rather than cower in anonymity, Ayaan writes books, publishes articles,
makes speeches and fights for her ideas – in particular the need for sweeping
reform in the Muslim world.
Today, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is one of the world’s great champions of freedom,
pluralism and tolerance.
And every self-respecting group that claims to value any of those things should be
defending her not defaming her.

Yet in an Orwellian inversion of reality, a woman whose life is threatened every
day by extremist Muslims is labeled by the SPLC an anti-Muslim extremist.
Have those who put Ayaan on that list no shame? Have they no decency?
The SPLC and others who asked me not to come here tonight claim to support
free and open debate. But in reality, they seem to want to stifle debate….
Unfortunately, some have amended that famous Voltairian dictum to be “I hate
what you say and I will never defend your right to say it.”

I will defame you as an extremist. I will label you a racist and a bigot. I will put
you on the blackest of lists that should be reserved for Nazis, for the Klan, and for
the true enemies of mankind.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I don’t stand with the defamers and the blacklisters. I
stand with Ayaan Hirsi Ali. We all should stand with Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
For if we do not stand with her, then the values she champions – the same values
we cherish – will be under threat and the dangers we face will only grow.
We must not let the defamers and blacklisters succeed….

We wonder how the media would react if a corresponding situation arose on the centerright
of the political spectrum. For example, let’s assume that congressional debate were
raging as to whether or not taxpayers should continue to fund Planned Parenthood,
which receives about $500 million a year from Congress. If a national pro-life advocacy
organization were to release a map with caricatures of abortionists and title it, “Here’s
Where the Baby Killers are Located in Your State,” would the media run the story?
Would it reprint the map and discuss the location of these “pro-death” doctors
throughout the news day? Clearly, it would not.

Given the above points, and most alarmingly that the SPLC’s “hate group” propaganda
has been linked to two terrorist shootings in the D.C. area, we respectfully request that
you cease using the SPLC’s data and its various lists and maps in your reporting.

L. Brent Bozell III
Media Research Center

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