These media sources are moderately to strongly biased toward liberal causes through story selection and/or political affiliation. They may utilize strong loaded words (wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeal to emotion or stereotypes), publish misleading reports and omit reporting of information that may damage liberal causes. Some sources in this category may be untrustworthy. See all Left Bias sources.
- Overall, we rate the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Left Biased based on story selection that favors the Left and through strong political advocacy for social justice. We also rate them High for factual reporting due to a clean fact check record and although they have mischaracterized some groups and individuals, they ultimately apologized, acknowledged their error, and made appropriate corrections.
Factual Reporting: HIGH
World Press Freedom Index: USA 45/180
Launched in 1971, The Southern Poverty Law Center (The SPLC) is a legal advocacy group that reports on inequality, litigating, and tracking hate groups across the United States. According to their history page they describe their founding purpose as a “civil rights law practice that would provide a voice for the disenfranchised.” They state their accomplishments over the years as “dismantled vestiges of Jim Crow, reformed juvenile justice practices, shattered barriers to equality for women, children, the LGBT community and the disabled, protected low-wage immigrant workers from exploitation, and more.” Joseph J. Levin, Jr is the co-founder, and the other co-founder Morris Dees was fired (March 2019), and his biography was removed from its website. Bryan Fair is the chairman and the SPLC is headquartered in Montgomery, Alabama, USA.
In summary, during the 1980s, The Southern Poverty Law Center began monitoring, tracking, and exposing a wide variety of hate and extremist organizations including white supremacists and The Klan. In the 1990s, the SPLC launched the Teaching Tolerance program to provide educators with free, anti-bias classroom resources such as classroom documentaries and lesson plans.
The issues covered by the group are listed as “Hate & Extremism, Children’s Rights, Immigrant Justice, LGBT Rights, Economic Justice, Criminal Justice Reform, and Voting Rights.” They also have a section called Hatewatch, which is a blog that monitors and exposes the activities of the “American radical right.” SPLC has published an annual census of hate groups operating within the United States, through their hate map. The SPLC states they use a variety of methodologies to determine the activities of groups and individuals. These include “reviewing hate group publications and reports by citizens, law enforcement, field sources and the news media, and conducting our own investigations.” The hate map depicts the approximate locations of hate group chapters such as racist and anti-Semitic organizations.
Funded by / Ownership
The Southern Poverty Law Center’s work is supported primarily through donors contributions and they don’t receive government funds. However, they don’t list their donors according to Charity Navigator. The Southern Poverty Law Center provides Audited Financial Statements, which provides their most recent financial information, as well as IRS Form 990. You can view the detailed financial reports here. The Southern Poverty Law Center also has various donation options. The Board members list can be found here.
Analysis / Bias
On March 29, 2019, The Southern Poverty Law Center (The SPLC) had an internal conflict, resulting in co-founder Morris Dees being dismissed after current and former employees filed complaints, including sexual harassment and a lack of diversity based on race and gender. The incident was covered by media including CNN and Fox News who reported on the incident. The SLPC has also been criticized by the far-right Christian Family Research Council as “using smear tactics, intimidation, ritualized defamation, and a knack for fundraising to silence its political opponents” The Family Research Council (FRC) is designated as an anti-LGBTQ hate group.
As well as exposing the activities of the American radical right, and white supremacist, the Southern Poverty Law Center also designated radical groups such as “The New Black Panther Party” (not to be confused with the Black Panther Party) and the Nation of Islam (NOI) as a hate group. In their FAQ section, they explain why they don’t list Antifa as a hate group and answer questions such as how they classify anti-immigrant hate groups and anti-LGBT hate groups.
In 2018, SPLC President Richard Cohen posted an apology and paid a financial settlement to Maajid Nawaz and to the Quilliam Foundation for mischaracterizing them as anti-Muslim extremists. Further, SPLC apologized to Ben Carson and removed his designation in their Extremist Files.
The Southern Poverty Law Center uses emotionally loaded headlines such as these: “President Trump is stoking white nationalism, exploiting racist fear” and “In wake of Trump’s ‘shithole’ comment, celebration among the far right.” Further, the SPLC sources their information with quotes, video/audio evidence, but often does not hyperlink to other sources. In general, the majority of articles published by SPLC favor the left and portray the right negatively.
The SPLC is often criticized by hate groups and the far-right as being extreme left-biased. This is not accurate. The SPLC applies a methodology to their designations that are consistent no matter what side (left or right) the groups are on. SPLC explains on their FAQ page that there are simply more hate groups affiliated with the right, based on their definition of a hate group, which states “has beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.” This definition is similar to the FBI’s definition of what constitutes a hate crime.
Failed Fact Checks
- None to date
Overall, we rate the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Left Biased based on story selection that favors the Left and through strong political advocacy for social justice. We also rate them High for factual reporting due to a clean fact check record and although they have mischaracterized some groups and individuals, they ultimately apologized, acknowledged their error, and made appropriate corrections. (8/23/2016) Updated (M. Huitsing 2/14/2021)