Conservative groups ask media to stop relying on SPLC 'hate map'

A coalition of conservative groups has written an open letter to the media asking them to stop using data from the Southern Poverty Law Center so long as the group continues to lump right-wing think tanks in with groups like the KKK as “hate groups.” From the Alabama Political Reporter:

Nearly 50 prominent conservatives and far-right lawyers have penned an open letter to the media, asking reporters not to use statistics and information gathered by the Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center.

The letter was penned by leaders of fundamentalist and conservative groups, many of which are listed as anti-LGBT hate groups on the SPLC’s Hate Map. The signers call 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 and application that is not only false and defamatory, but that also endangers the lives of those targeted with it.”…

The signers blame the SPLC for a shooting in 2012 at the offices of the Family Research Council, during which a building manager was shot and injured. The shooter, Floyd Lee Corkins, said in a police interrogation that he chose the building because the AFA had been listed as an anti-LGBT hate group by the SPLC.

In addition to the shooting by Floyd Lee Corkins, the letter devotes a page to criticism of the SPLC for referring to Ayaan Hirsi Ali as an anti-Muslim extremist. The letter concludes by suggesting no media outlet would direct readers to a map that listed the locations of abortion clinics:

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.

This summer, Politco published a story in which several observers suggested the SPLC had gone too far in some cases. Journalist Ken Silverstein, who wrote a critical piece about the organization for Harpers in 2000 told Politico, “The organization has always tried to find ways to milk money out of the public by finding whatever threat they can most credibly promote.”

And the group has been extremely successful at fundraising, having amassed a $320 million endowment fund. The Weekly Standard reports that the SPLC has so much money on hand it is now sending millions of it offshore:

The Southern Poverty Law Center invests almost 20 percent of its nearly $320 million endowment fund in offshore equities and other investments. The 2016 annual reportof the Alabama-based civil rights organization reports $69,093,576 of “non-U.S. equity funds” among the assets comprising the total endowment fund of $319,283,961, a fund the SPLC describes as a “plan for the day when nonprofits like the SPLC can no longer afford to solicit support through the mail because of rising postage and printing costs.”

The SPLC has a vested interest in making the hate map appear as threatening as possible. It’s clearly been good for business.