Tony Perkins

Hate group leader Tony Perkins (Family Research Council) has posted an attack on Southern Poverty Law Center. Perkins is attacking the arguer rather than the argument. In other words rather than critiquing the methodology and the specifics he is attacking SPLC on issues irrelevant to his organization’s “Hate Group” status. That is telling.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has plenty of money — it’s allies the group is running out of. The end of the Obama era not only brought about an end to the red-carpet treatment, it would appear tide is also turning against the phony civil rights group, and no one is more surprised than SPLC itself. For years, the group has enjoyed the blind support of the mainstream media — a luxury it lost when SPLC was not only highlighted by another politically-motivated shooter but also when it slapped an “extremist” label on Muslim Maajid Nawaz.

SPLC is, indeed, a financially successful organization. So is Alliance Defending Freedom. SPLC’s endowment has increased 50% over the past four years. It has also made some smart investments. In 2013, for example, net investment gains totaled $35 million. So what? What does any of that have to do with meeting its mission or FRC’s listing?

The notion that SPLC is “highlighted” by gun violence is preposterous. As for Maajid Nawaz, SPLC is quite specific in its charge that he is an extremist. Mr. Nawaz can speak for himself. He doesn’t require Tony Perkins’ assistance.

For liberals like Bill Maher, who was so angry that he said he’d help fund a lawsuit against SPLC, it was the final straw. “It’s funny,” Maher told Nawaz, “you’re fighting extremists but they call you an extremist.” The woes for Morris Dees’s groups only grew when the Alabama-based organization was linked to its second domestic terrorist two weeks ago — James Hodgkinson, the gunman who shot another of SPLC’s featured “haters,” House Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), and four others at baseball practice.

I did not watch that Maher episode but I would bet that Maher was lacking in specifics. That is, Maher and Nawaz offering specifically what SPLC says and why SPLC is inaccurate or incorrect in its conclusions. The attempt to tie SPLC to Steve Scalise’s shooting is absurd. The connection is no less tenuous than Joel Steinberg’s to the New York Bar Association. And what does any of this have to do with whether or not FRC is fairly listed as a hate group?

Suddenly, the group’s thin veneer of credibility (which was already in short supply after Floyd Corkins told authorities he targeted FRC because of SPLC) was gone. The dominos that started to fall after the FBI, U.S. Army, and Obama Justice Department distanced themselves from Dees’s group exploded into a full-scale media firestorm. GuideStar was forced to drop SPLC’s labeling from its charity index, the Wall Street Journal published “The Insidious Influence of the SPLC,” and this week Politico spent 11 pages of its latest magazine criticizing the group for losing its way.

The above is a Gish Gallop.

It’s not Dee’s group. Dees was the founder but he is not the CEO. Corkins targeted FRC because of their hateful spew. He seemed to be most exercised over FRC’s defense of Chick-Fil-A. SPLC cannot be responsible for the actions of unhinged crazy people. There are at least ten references to murdered physician George Tiller on FRC’s website. Yet none of those condemn violence. In the aftermath of Tiller’s murder, the only relevant post asserts that late term abortions are never justified. There is not a single reference to Scott Roeder (Tiller’s murderer) on FRC’s website.

Where is the statement from Perkins that violence is never justified? Furthermore, FRC incites violence against LGBT people every day. GuideStar temporarily suspended inclusion of the SPLC hate group flag because the hate groups incited threats of violence against GuideStar employees. None of this nor criticism from the Wall Street Journal or Politico has anything whatsoever to do with FRC’s listing as a hate group.

The FBI temporarily removed outside agencies (including SPLC) from
its resource list. That listing has been restored and remains restored.

The Wall Street Journal piece is an attack on SPLC, mostly from FRC’s point of view. The very first sentence is about FRC. The Politico piece contains both praise and criticism.

Almost overnight, the wagons that used to circle SPLC couldn’t drive
away fast enough. In a lengthy exposé that tackles everything from
Dees’s shady financial dealings to the group’s controversial methods,
Ben Schreckinger signals that SPLC’s easy ride in the media is over. “As
Dees navigates the era of Trump, there are new questions arising around
a charge that has dogged the group for years: that SPLC is overplaying
its hand, becoming more of a partisan progressive hit operation than a
civil rights watchdog. …

Schreckinger wrote the Polito piece. Perkins’ take is out of context. SPLC’s methodology is transparent and there is nothing “shady” about Morris Dee’s financial dealings. He will not sue but that is defamatory — indefensible. What does this have to do with FRC’s listing as a hate group?

Cornell law professor William Jacobson hopes the media’s eyes are finally opened. “For groups that do not threaten violence, the use of SPLC ‘hate group’ or ‘extremist’ designations frequently are exploited as an excuse to silence speech and speakers.” Politico goes on to quote Ken Silverstein, a liberal journalist who investigated SPLC’s suspicious $300 million endowment …

Mr. Jacobson does not weigh in specifically on FRC and his post was at Legal Insurrection which is a very conservative blog. He is very critical of SPLC for sure. The validity of those criticisms is debatable. Ken Silverstein investigated SPLC 17 years ago. He wrote a 2000 piece for Harpers and it could not have mentioned a $300 million endowment because SPLC’s endowment in 2000 was nowhere near $300 million. In 2009 (as far back as I can find) the endowment was half that amount.

This might be Silverstein’s piece (I cannot find the original). Among the criticisms is a quote from a former law partner of Morris Dees when he was in private practice saying that Dees wanted to make a lot of money. So did I. A lawyer with Dees’ skills could have earned a great deal more money if he stayed in private practice. SPLC does raise a great deal of money. None of that enriches Morris Dees.

At least for now, any pretense of SPLC’s neutrality is gone. Dees and lieutenant Richard Cohen have made it clear that they’re openly aiming for Donald Trump, who they accuse of “normalizing hate.” …

Richard Cohen is SPLC’s CEO. Cohen is president; Dees is the chief trial attorney. Perkins would know that if he took two minutes to visit SPLC’s website. SPLC does accuse Trump of normalizing hate and I fully agree with that assessment. To claim that they are “aiming at Trump is nonsense and, of course, none of this has anything to do with the validity of SPLC’s listing of Family Research Council as a hate group.

Perkins concludes his piece with a defense of Trump:

By its own admission, SPLC’s agenda is to choke off anyone aligned with Trump. That’s even more obvious when you consider that the president’s largest support base — evangelical Christians — make up the majority of SPLC’s “watch lists.” Trump is determined to keep his commitments, and SPLC is trying to stop him by marginalizing the groups who help him succeed. It’s time for more in the media to wake up to this scam and stop legitimizing SPLC as a source. Being connected to gunmen who carried out two shootings hasn’t deterred Dees. But maybe a costly lesson from the press will.

Perkins doesn’t cite any source for SPLC’s “admission.” Evangelical Christian organizations constitute most of the purveyors of anti-LGBT animus. Opposing same-sex marriage or same-sex parenting does not cause an organization to be listed as a hate group. That requires a false portrayal of LGBT people. One of the reasons that Perkins’ Family Research Council is designated a hate group is their insistence on portraying gay men as pedophiles. Perkins does not address that or any other issue associated with FRC’s listing. Could it be that he makes the cash register ring by promoting those smears? Could he be envious of SPLC’s ability to raise funds and therefore he is projecting?

Perhaps SPLC could spend more money. Perhaps they could make more grants available to advance their agenda of tolerance. Perhaps they cannot, depending upon the intent of donors. However, their financial success does not mean — in any way whatsoever — that Family Research Council is unfairly listed as a hate group. Mr. Perkins does not seem to be interested in making that argument with any specifics, In fact, Perkins does not seem to be interested in making that argument at all. The argument from Perkins is ad hominem.

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.