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FRC lies about the SPLC; also, grass is green and water is wet

by Jeremy Hooper

This is what the Southern Poverty Law Center's Mark Potok actually said:

MP: I came here in the middle of '97, and my own background was such that I had been a reporter for 20 years, but I came after a rash of covering the radical right—the Waco events, the militia movement that had grown out of that, the Oklahoma City bombing, the trial of McVeigh afterwards. In fact, I remember when I gave my notice to USA Today I was literally standing at a roadblock at a standoff in east Texas with a group called The Republic of Texas, who were facing off with the Texas Rangers.

I got here and it just seemed like the publication was narrower than what we could really do. And we had been, at times perhaps, superficial in our handling and examination of certain groups. There was also, I feared, sometimes a little bit of an element of hypocrisy in the sense that for instance we wrote extensively about anti-abortion extremists who targeted individual doctors and their helpers by doing things like printing their names and home addresses and pictures of their children, and what car they drove to work, and that sort of thing. But at the same time we said nothing about groups like the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front, which are not right-wing groups in any sense, but employed exactly the same kind of tactics—that kind of targeting of individuals, holding them up for real, physical assault.

And then there were areas that were not much covered at all, but really did deserve coverage. Things like the tax protestor movement. You know, certain sectors of the militia movement that were not much understood—common law courts, sovereign citizens, and so on. Basically, I wanted the magazine to be everything it could be, and I certainly was not alone here. We wanted to create a magazine that essentially would become the magazine, the definitive publication covering the American radical right.


Mark's point was that when he got there, SPLC was *not* covering groups that he thought should be covered. SPLC *does* now cover the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front. Potok's point was that he made that happen, expanding coverage outside of just those groups who neatly fit into a right-wing box.

But check out how the Family Research Council, in its latest hit piece on the SPLC, cites the above passage:

Screen Shot 2012-09-27 At 6.06.35 Pm
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Its So-Called “Hate Groups” [FRC Issue Brief]

That is *NOT AT ALL* what he said! He said, quite clearly, that the "element of hypocrisy" he perceived was one that he strove to correct. That's not up for debate. It's right there in the quote.

But leave it to FRC, in its fury to attack those who've pushed back against it extremism rather than actually make internal changes to the way it operates, to remove all context. FRC staffers are acting like they've caught Potok in a trap. Like they've found his weakness. Like he's a hypocrite who deserves no validation.

Only problem for FRC is that the organization has instead reiterated its willingness to bear false witness for the sake of its own agenda. Far from the first time that's happened, and it most certainly won't be the last. Good thing some of us care enough to track their lies.

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