ABC News Slammed for Calling Religious Liberty Organization a ‘Hate Group’
Media, Democrats cite left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center despite years of targeting mainstream conservatives
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has slammed ABC News for a report and headline describing the religious freedom advocacy organization as an “anti-LGBT hate group.”
The basis for the description, cited by ABC, was provided by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The SPLC, which Morris Dees founded in 1971, has been repeatedly criticized for labeling mainstream conservative organizations as “hate groups.”
The story in question, published by ABC on Wednesday, focused on a speech Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave to the group in 2016. Sessions at the time was a U.S. senator from Alabama.
"Sessions addressed members of the Alliance Defending Freedom, which was designated an 'anti-LGBT hate group' by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2016," the report stated.
The ADF slammed ABC for using SPLC's description without question or qualification.
"ABC News has committed journalistic malpractice," ADF Legal Counsel and Director of Communications Kerri Kupec said in a statement released on Thursday. "For ABC News to essentially cut and paste false charges against Alliance Defending Freedom by a radically left-wing, violence-inciting organization like Southern Poverty Law Center is a discredit to ABC News and to the profession."
Kupec went on to suggest the flap was clear evidence of bias from ABC and an aspect of why more Americans than ever have lost trust in the press.
"Americans' trust in media is cratering, and the blatant bias and lack of professionalism that ABC attempted to pass off as news can only serve to confirm and intensify that distrust," she said. "Alliance Defending Freedom is one of the most respected and successful Supreme Court advocates in the legal profession, having won seven cases at the high court in the last seven years," the statement continued.
"Accepting SPLC designations as legitimate is like accepting KGB propaganda — long on allegations, short on facts, full of venom and devoid of integrity. "
Kupec then outlined several other types of groups SPLC has unfairly targeted.
"Southern Poverty Law Center spends its time and money attacking veterans, nuns, Muslims who oppose terrorism, Catholics, Evangelicals, and anyone else who dares disagree with its far-left ideology," said Kupec. "Meanwhile, ADF works every day to preserve and affirm free speech and the free exercise of religion for people from all walks of life and all backgrounds because we believe freedom is for everyone."
Democratic politicians seized on the report to criticize Sessions.
"This sends a very troubling message that our attorney general, America's top law enforcement official, is not committed to standing up to anti-LGBT hate," Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) told ABC News.
The ADF is hardly the only non-extreme conservative organization the SPLC has deemed hateful.
The organization's website lists the following mainstream conservative organizations as either hate or extremist groups: Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum, WND, the American Family Association, the Center for Security Policy, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, and the Family Research Council.
In the case of the Family Research Council (FRC), the unfounded implication of hate nearly turned deadly.
On August 15, 2012, a left-wing pro-LGBT activist named Floyd Lee Corkins walked into the lobby of the FRC's Washington, D.C., office and opened fire. Employee Leonardo Johnson was shot in the arm and survived.
"Southern Poverty Law lists anti-gay groups. I found them online," Corkins reportedly told authorities when asked why he targeted the FRC.
Observers' objections and complaints over taking SPLC as a credible source on hate groups run back at least a decade.
Back in 2007, Stephen B. Bright, a well-respected civil rights lawyer and visiting law professor at Yale, turned down an invitation to speak at the University of Alabama Law School's commencement in part because the University had an award named after SPLC founder Morris Dees.
"I also received the law school's invitation to the presentation of the 'Morris Dees Justice Award,' which you also mentioned in your letter as one of the 'great things' happening at the law school," Bright wrote in a letter to the law school's dean, Kenneth C. Randall.
"I decline that invitation for another reason. Morris Dees is a con man and fraud, as I and others, such as U.S. Circuit Judge Cecil Poole, have observed and as has been documented by John Egerton, Harper's, the Montgomery Advertiser in its 'Charity of Riches' series, and others," wrote Bright. (go to page 2 to continue reading)