Morris Dees is melting, along with his decades-old McCarthy-style witch-hunt.
The Gazette editorial board has warned occasionally for the past decade against trusting the Southern Poverty Law Center. The once-legitimate firm, co-founded by Dees in 1971, maligns political opponents by comparing them to Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan on a hate list and hate map.
Today, Dees finds himself embroiled in a controversy involving a "toxic" work environment. The Los Angeles Times reports on a letter by multiple law center employees to the organization's board members citing a workplace culture of sexism and racism.
The allegations come amid this week's firing of Dees for misconduct, though the law firm has given no detailed explanation for the termination.
The center this week hired Chicago lawyer Tina Tchen, former chief of staff to first lady Michelle Obama, to review its workplace environment and policies.
The Montgomery Advertiser, in the law firm's hometown, cited staffers accusing Dees of racism and sexism in the mid-1990s. Dees denied the claims. Critics have long complained about the law center's dearth of minority employees.
The center has mastered the art of committing defamation to churn donations, amassing an endowment approaching $1 billion. Identify a "hater" or "hate group" in Anytown, USA, send fundraising letters fomenting concern, then go on speaking tours to raise more cash.
We take no issue with the firm's moral objection to many of the mainstream organizations it lists. That is not the point.
Rather, we shudder at using tactics of personal destruction to settle moral conflicts and policy disputes Americans should work through with civilized exchanges of ideas. Opposing abortion or advocating so-called "family values" may be unpopular, but has nothing in common with lynchings, hate speech or Klan rallies.
Back in 2017, a group of 47 prominent conservatives asked journalists to stop citing the law center as a source of credible expertise on all things ostensibly hateful. Signers included the Jewish Institute for Global Awareness, Refugee Resettlement Watch, the American College of Pediatricians, the Alliance Defending Freedom, and the Media Research Center.
"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," they wrote, in five pages detailing the SPLC's careless and politically motivated attacks on groups it opposes.
A Gazette editorial board member, while working for another media company, interviewed Dees after his law firm listed a Denver radio host and gun-store owner as an anti-Semite. The defamed man had grown up Jewish in New York City amid photos of relatives gassed by Nazis.
When told of the purported "anti-Semite's" background, Dees immediately blamed staffers and threw them under the bus.
When Dees visited Colorado Springs in 2017, the progressive Colorado Springs Independent asked him about the hate listing of former State Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt, a Colorado Springs retired military chaplain who founded a nonprofit called Pray in Jesus Name. The independent also asked why Dees listed the Springs-based Family Research Institute.
"I don't think everybody would think of these groups as hate groups. So what makes a hate group?" the Independent asked.
Dees could not answer.
"Well, I'm not in charge of that at the Southern Poverty Law Center, you can call somebody there and they can give you a better answer ... " Dees said.
Dees cops ignorance about the very tactics that made him the multi-millionaire leader of a business he founded. What could possibly go wrong?
The center's careless hate-listing practice culminated in a public apology and multi-million-dollar settlement last year with the Maajid Nawaz's Quilliam Foundation. The center had blacklisted the group as an "extremist" anti-Muslim organization but had no evidence to support the claim.
The law center has ruined scores of reputations in a crusade to destroy people with whom it disagrees. As the firm stands increasingly exposed, damaged parties should seek judgments and settlements to restore their reputations.
In the meantime, tell media organizations to stop citing the SPLC as a credible source. It is not. These high-paid witch-hunters have no clothes.
REPRINTED FROM THE COLORADO SPRINGS GAZETTE