SPLC hires Michelle Obama's former Chief of Staff to investigate workplace environment

When SPLC co-founder Morris Dees was fired last week, the organization promised a “comprehensive assessment” of the office climate. Today, the SPLC announced it has hired Michell Obama’s former Chief of Staff, Tina Tchen to conduct that assessment. From the Montgomery Advertiser:

Tina Tchen previously worked as chief of staff to then-First Lady Michelle Obama and now leads a “workplace cultural compliance” practice at Buckley LLP, which examines “gender and racial equity, sexual harassment” and other diversity barriers in the workplace…

“Every workplace, including social justice organizations, must work hard to create a workplace culture that fully reflects their values and priorities, including when it comes to racial and gender diversity,” Tchen said in a release.

It’s still not clear what Tchen’s assignment has to do with Dees’ firing. Last week there was one report saying an email sent by staffers mentioned multiple allegations of sexual harassment by Dees. Today, AL.com has a story today including interviews from past and present SPLC staffers and they suggest there is a problem with racial bias at the organization:

Allegations of harassment and racism within the SPLC’s offices aren’t new, according to two former employees who spoke with AL.com on the record. AL.com contacted more than two dozen current and former employees and board members, some of whom spoke with AL.com off-record…

Jackson, who is black, worked at the SPLC for a few months before entering law school at the University of Virginia. He said he liked his work at the SPLC and found it fulfilling, but the workplace atmosphere “not so much.”

“I grew up in the Montgomery area and I had this perception of what that organization was all about,” Jackson told AL.com last week. “At least during my tenure there, perception didn’t match reality. It was unfortunate.”

Jackson declined to go into detail on-record, but said the office climate at the time was not always friendly to its black employees – an attitude later highlighted in an investigation published in the mid-1990s by The Montgomery Advertiser. Dees and the SPLC denied all claims of racism after that series published.

That’s certainly an ironic circumstance but it would explain why the SPLC is commissioning this outside look at how things are going. But I doubt whatever report Tchen issues will be made public so it will be on people inside the organization to keep leaking the truth about what his happening.

Tina Tchen has been in the news for her connection to another scandal recently. Tchen is the person who “reached out” to State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx to ask her if she could get Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson to turn the Jussie Smollett case over to the FBI. From the Chicago Tribune:

Foxx reached out to Johnson after Tina Tchen, former chief of staff to first lady Michelle Obama, emailed Foxx saying the actor’s family had unspecified “concerns about the investigation.” Tchen, a close friend of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s wife, said she was acting on behalf of the “Empire” actor and his family. A relative later exchanged texts with Foxx.

The same day, Foxx texted with Smollett’s relative, whose name was blacked out in copies released by her office.

“Spoke to the superintendent earlier, he made the ask,” Foxx wrote. “Trying to figure out logistics. I’ll keep you posted.”

“Omg this would be a huge victory,” the relative replied.

Foxx subsequently recused herself from the case once Smollett became a suspect. Tchen hasn’t commented on her involvement.