The Southern Poverty Law Center, a controversial organization that's known for labeling conservative groups as hate groups, fired its co-founder Morris Dees.
SPLC President Richard Cohen released a statement Thursday announcing that the 82-year-old Dees was no longer with the Montgomery, Alabama-based organization.
“Morris has made incredible contributions to the fight against racial injustice in our country. But our work is about the cause, not the person. We’re committed to ensuring that our workplace embodies the values we espouse — truth, justice, equity, and inclusion,” stated Cohen.
“When one of our own fails to meet those standards, no matter his or her role in the organization, we take it seriously and must take appropriate action.”
In comments published by the Montgomery Advertiser, Cohen declined to provide further details of the decision, though he mentioned concerns over “workplace practices.”
Cohen explained that the SPLC was taking “concrete next steps” following the firing, which included “bringing in an outside organization to conduct a comprehensive assessment of our internal climate and workplace practices” in order “to ensure that our talented staff is working in the environment that they deserve.”
The SPLC was founded in 1971 to help with legal battles against groups like the Ku Klux Klan. More recently, the far-left group has garnered controversy for labeling many conservative groups and individuals as hateful.
Critics have accused the SPLC of inciting violence against conservatives. For example, in 2012 a gay rights activist named Floyd Lee Corkins attempted to murder members of the Family Research Center. Corkins cited SPLC’s designation of the FRC as a “hate group.”
In 2017, violent student protests against conservative intellectual Charles Murray took place at Middlebury College of Vermont, with protesters being inspired by the SPLC’s attacks on Murray.
The SPLC denounced Corkins’ attempted mass shooting, and Cohen testified before Congress to state that he believed Murray has the right to speak on college campuses, including Middlebury.
"No matter how repugnant one may find a speaker's views, as long as the college has a policy of allowing student groups to invite people from outside their campus to speak, they cannot pick and choose based on the views the speaker holds," said Cohen in written testimony submitted to United States Senate Committee of the Judiciary in 2017.
"This is why Middlebury's student chapter of the conservative American Enterprise Institute had a right to invite Charles Murray to speak to them on campus. And it is why neither other students nor college administrators can stop someone from speaking merely because they dislike the speaker's ideas."
Last June, the SPLC issued a formal apology to an ex-Muslim activist named Maajid Nawaz and paid him $3.3 million as part of a legal settlement after wrongfully including him in a report on anti-Muslim activity.
"This settlement is another example that the Southern Poverty Law Center is incapable at monitoring the very thing it claims to track," Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, a socially conservative group that the SPLC labeled hateful, said in a statement last year.
"No credible journalist should ever rely on the SPLC. The SPLC reeks with hateful, false, and defamatory rhetoric."