More than a month after a judge handed a conservative organization a monumental legal victory against the Southern Poverty Law Center, most legacy media outlets have ignored the story, even though a New York Times reporter said it was “front-page news.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center routinely brands mainstream conservative and Christian organizations “hate groups,” placing them on a map with chapters of the Ku Klux Klan, but most lawsuits aiming to hold the SPLC accountable for this alleged defamation have failed. Judges often dismiss defamation lawsuits against the SPLC, saying the defamed “hate groups” fail to meet the “actual malice” standard.
Yet on March 31, District Judge Keith Watkins denied the SPLC’s motion to dismiss a defamation claim from the Dustin Inman Society and its founder, D.A. King. The Dustin Inman Society is a pro-immigration enforcement group that the SPLC brands an “anti-immigrant hate group.” Watkins published his opinion explaining the ruling on April 24. His ruling allows the case to move into the discovery phase of litigation, where King can demand SPLC documents to prove his case (and the SPLC can demand documents from King, as well).
Watkins’ ruling represents the first time that an SPLC-accused “hate group” has succeeded in making it to discovery in a defamation lawsuit directly challenging the SPLC on its “hate group” accusation. Many organizations, including the Center for Immigration Studies, the Proud Boys, Liberty Counsel, and D. James Kennedy Ministries, have failed to reach this point, even though D. James Kennedy Ministries appealed all the way to the Supreme Court.
This legal move represents the greatest hit to the SPLC’s credibility since 2019, when a former employee came forward in the wake of a racial discrimination and sexual harassment scandal that led the SPLC to fire its co-founder and see its president resign. Amid that scandal, former employee Bob Moser confessed that the SPLC’s “hate” accusations are a “highly profitable scam” meant to exaggerate hate and bilk donors.
As I noted in my book “Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center,” such claims trace back decades and are rooted in the co-founder’s history as an expert fundraiser. The SPLC has also apologized for previous smears, including branding former neurosurgeon and U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson an extremist. In 2018, it paid a $3.3 million defamation settlement to Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz and apologized for branding him an “anti-Islamic extremist.”
While the SPLC has an endowment of more than $730 million, the Dustin Inman Society has struggled to raise money after the “hate group” smear. The society is seeking $25,000 in donations to fund its legal effort against the SPLC and says supporters can help by contributing on GoFundMe.com.
Despite this groundbreaking move, most left-leaning legacy media outlets have yet to cover the story, more than a month after Watkins’ ruling and more than two weeks after his opinion was issued.
Neither The New York Times, nor The Washington Post, nor USA Today, nor The Associated Press, nor Reuters deigned to cover this important story. Even The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the major paper in King’s hometown of Marietta, Georgia, and the Montgomery Advertiser, the major paper in the SPLC’s home city of Montgomery, Alabama, have yet to cover the story.
King told The Daily Signal that “a New York Times reporter contacted me almost two weeks after the motion to dismiss was denied and was rather adamant that the denial was a ‘front-page story.’” Then the reporter said “he would hold off approaching his editors” until another legal move took place, according to King.
“It was confusing to me. Is the SPLC finally losing on a motion to dismiss a lawsuit against their false and malicious smears not news?” he asked.
King also noted that The Associated Press did not cover the story, despite the AP’s own reporting forming a major centerpiece of the lawsuit.
In 2011, SPLC Intelligence Project Director Heidi Beirich had told the AP that the Dustin Inman Society was not a “hate group,” but the SPLC abruptly reversed course in 2018, around the same time it registered a lobbyist to oppose an immigration enforcement bill the society supported.
“It was the AP that reported Heidi Beirich’s assurance that we are not a ‘hate group’ in 2011,” King said. “While various news outlets have done the story on our so far successful complaint, the AP isn’t one of them.”
He also faulted The Washington Post, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Atlanta TV news stations “that have run stories on the SPLC’s ridiculous, fundraising ‘hate map,’” but refuse to cover this recent news. “Several people have asked me if the [mainstream media] TV networks have contacted us. So far, nothing.”
The media blackout isn’t limited to the left-leaning outlets, however. Even Fox News has yet to cover the story, a fact King called “fascinating.”
“Has anyone told Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, or Mark Levin about our struggle?” King asked. “We need help that will not come if conservative pro-enforcement Americans don’t know we are fighting back.”
The Daily Signal reached out to The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, USA Today, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Montgomery Advertiser, and Fox News for comment on the apparent media blackout. None of them responded by publication time.
Some outlets did grasp the importance of the story, including Yahoo! News, which ran the Marietta (Georgia) Daily Journal’s coverage, Axios Atlanta, the Washington Examiner, The Washington Times, and The New York Sun.
The SPLC has yet to comment on the news, although an internal email mistakenly sent to The Washington Times’ Stephan Dinan revealed that the center is “working on a communications plan.”
“I thought we are not commenting and we shouldn’t for the Washington Times,” SPLC Chief Communications Officer Julian Teixeira wrote in an email to a colleague—which he also inadvertently sent to the Times.
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