Newsweek is receiving criticism for calling the Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit a "hate group" in a story highlighting President Donald Trump as the keynote speaker at the event, which was also attended by his former strategist, Steve Bannon.
"Donald Trump to Speak at Hate Group's Annual Event, a First for a President," read the headline. The publication then wrote in the first paragraph that the Southern Poverty Law Center described the FRC as a "rogues' gallery of the radical right."
"The anti-LGBTQ Family Research Council, labeled as a hate group by the SPLC, has hosted its annual summit since its inception in 2006," Newsweek wrote, and quoted SPLC President Richard Cohen as telling The Independent: "By appearing at the Values Voter Summit, President Trump is lending the legitimacy of his office to a hate group that relentlessly demonizes LGBTQ people and works to deny them of their equal rights. His appearance puts the lie to his campaign promise to be a friend to the LGBTQ community. Bigotry is not an American value, and our president should speak out against it."
"What vicious nonsense from Newsweek," Ed Whelan, president of Ethics and Public Policy Center, responded on Twitter. "But a useful reminder that, for some reason, Newsweek still exists."
Denny Burk, a professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, retweeted Whelan, saying, "Unbelievable. Vicious indeed."
"It is irresponsible the way some media outlets are throwing out the word 'hate group' to describe conservative organizations," Daniel Darling, vice president for Communications for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, wrote on Twitter.
SPLC's Hatewatch has become the definitive guide among some scholars, authors and media organizations to what is, or is not, a "hate group," although conservatives have long criticized the list for labeling social conservative organizations as hate groups.
In a recent video by Prager University, journalist and author Karl Zinsmeister speaks about how the SPLC spreads the very hate that they claim to fight.
"Shutting down people you don't agree with is about as un-American as you can get. Rigorous debate, honest discussion, open exchange of ideas — that's the American way," he says in the video. "But free thinking and speech are threatened today by a group with a sweet-sounding name that conceals a nefarious purpose. This group is called the Southern Poverty Law Center, or SPLC."
He adds, "Originally founded as a civil-rights law firm in 1971, the SPLC reinvented itself in the mid-'80s as a political attack group. Every year now it produces a new list of people and charities it claims are 'extremists' and 'haters.'"
George Yancey, professor of sociology at the University of North Texas, found in a 2014 study, "Watching the Watchers: The Neglect of Academic Analysis of Progressive Groups," that SPLC's "hate group" list dubiously ignored anti-Christian groups that use similar rhetoric.
The analysis indicated that the list is more about mobilizing liberals than providing an objective source for hate groups. SPLC has escaped critical analysis of its work in academia because of a liberal bias among academicians, Yancey additionally claimed.
FRC's appearance on the list gained national attention in 2012 when a gunman, Floyd Corkins, entered FRC headquarters with the intent of killing everyone there. FRC's building manager, Leo Johnson, subdued Corkins and was shot in the process. Corkins targeted FRC after finding the group on SPLC's "Hatewatch." SPLC has continued to label FRC a hate group even after the shooting.