Southern Poverty Law Center Apologizes to Black Republican Ben Carson for Putting Him on ‘Extremist’ List
David Martosko, Daily Mail, February 12, 2015
The Southern Poverty Law Center offered an apology of sorts on Thursday to Dr. Ben Carson, a black potential Republican presidential candidate, for lumping him in with neo-Nazis, skinheads, and Klansmen on its influential ‘Extremist Watch’ website.
The iconic American civil rights group targeted Carson, a world-renowned retired pediatric neurosurgeon, because he is a Christian who opposes gay marriage.
The SPLC has seen its mission creep from defendng the civil rights of African-Americans to embracing a broader target list that includes ‘white nationalists, anti-gay zealots, black separatists, racist skinheads, neo-Confederates’ and others.
‘In October 2014, we posted an “Extremist File” of Dr. Ben Carson,’ the SPLC wrote in a statement on Thursday. ‘This week, as we’ve come under intense criticism for doing so, we’ve reviewed our profile and have concluded that it did not meet our standards, so we have taken it down and apologize to Dr. Carson for having posted it.’
The mea culpa quickly took on a backhanded quality, however.
‘We’ve also come to the conclusion,’ the group added, ‘that the question of whether a better-researched profile of Dr. Carson should or should not be included in our “Extremist Files” is taking attention from the fact that Dr. Carson has, in fact, made a number of statements that express views that we believe most people would conclude are extreme,’ the group added.
The bulk of the published statement consisted of a list of those quotes.
Carson’s attack at the hands of the SPLC was a hot topic of discussion among American conservatives this week as Carson moves closer to announcing a White House run.
‘I don’t think the left can stand the idea that the next black president might be a Republican,’ one U.S. Senate staffer said, requesting anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press. ‘And the SPLC is a left-wing group. Don’t forget that.’
The Southern Poverty Law Center did not respond to a request for comment.
Earlier in the week Daily Mail Online asked Carson if he thought the SPLC was ‘crooked’ in its dealings with Republicans.
‘Oh, definitely,’ he replied. ‘And I–certainly that’s been the impression of everybody I’ve heard from.’
‘I find it very ironic that they would castigate someone as a hater whose entire professional career was spent saving people’s lives,’ he said.
Carson described a scholarship program he has endowed, and literacy projects he has set up ‘specifically in poor areas, so that kids can learn the love of reading, which will have a profound impact on their academic performance.’
‘But because I don’t agree with them about traditional marriage, I’m a “hater”,’ he mused. ‘And that’s pretty interesting that someone could come away with that belief.’
Carson first attracted national notice in 2013 when he chastized President Barack Obama from a few feet away at the speaker’s podium during that year’s National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. ‘Obamacare,’ Carson said, ‘is really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.’
‘In a way, it is slavery,’ he added then.
His political positions are wrapped tightly in his Christianity, including opposition to gay marriage and a preference for a flat income tax rate that would affect everyone equally.
‘When I pick up by Bible, you know what I see?’ he asked the prayer breakfast audience. ‘I see the first individual in the universe, God, and he’s given us a system. It’s called a tithe.’
Tithing is an institution that calls for Christians to donate a flat 10 per cent of their earnings to the church where they worship.
But it’s speaking against same-sex unions that has put him on the hot seat, and may endanger his chances of emerging as a serious presidential contender outside America’s Bible belt.
‘If we can redefine marriage as between two men or two women or any other way based on social pressures as opposed to between a man and a woman,’ he wrote in his 2012 book America The Beautiful, ‘we will continue to redefine it in any way that we wish, which is a slippery slope with a disastrous ending.’
More dramatically, he said during a 2013 Fox News hannel interview that ‘traditional’ marriage is ‘a well-established pillar of society and no group–be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality–it doesn’t matter what they are, they don’t get to change the definition.’
NAMBLA, the North American Man/Boy Love Association, advocates for the normalization of pedophilia in society.
The Southern Poverty Law Center had cited those examples as evidence that Carson belongs on the same list as white nationalists and antisemites.
Days after the Fox interview, he admitted on CNN that his comments were ‘somewhat insensitive, and I certainly apologize if I offended anyone.’
‘I have always advocated equality for everyone,’ Carson insisted. ‘As a Christian, we have a duty to love everyone and to love them as ourselves. You know, I love gay people. I love straight people.’
On Monday Carson told Daily Mail Online that ‘when embracing traditional Christian values is equated to hatred, we are approaching the stage where wrong is called right and right is called wrong.’
‘It is absolutely critical for us to once again advocate true tolerance in this world where freedom of speech is closely guarded. That means being respectful to all of those with whom we disagree, as well as allowing people to live according to their values without harassment.’
‘It is nothing but projectionist and ignorant,’ Carson said, ‘when groups label certain people with whom they disagree as haters. Said behavior is truly uncouth and should be viewed as such.’
Placing an individual or organization on a high-profile, credible list of extremists can have unintended consequences.
In August 2012 a gunman namex Floyd Lee Corkins entered the Family Research Council’s headquarters in Washington in an attempt–as he later explained–‘to kill as many people as possible’
Corkins shot a security guard before he was disarmed. He chose his target from the SPLC’s ‘Hate Map’ web page–a geographic guide to its extremist list.
The Family Resarch Council, like Carson, landed on the site because it opposes gay marriage.
Putting Carson on a list along with former Klan leader David Duke and skinhead Eric ‘The Butcher’ Fairburn wasn’t the first time the organization dabbled in national electoral politics.
In 2011 it included Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul on a list titled ‘Electoral Extremism: 23 Candidates on the Radical Right,’ listing ‘Right-wing libertarian’ as his ‘EXTREMIST IDEOLOGY.’
Cornell Law School professor William Jacobson, wrote Friday that ‘the Southern Poverty Law Center ceased long ago to be a neutral source of information.’
The SPLC did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The group’s controversial spokesman Mark Potok did speak to the left-wing website Talking Points Memo, however.
‘Our criticism of him was based in large part on his very extreme rhetoric about the evils of gay people,’ Potok said.
‘He says that any criticism he makes is always kind and never meant to destroy the person, but then he says that gay marriage will lead to the destruction of America much in the same way the Roman Empire collapsed.’
In February 2014 Potok claimed on CNN that ‘anti-black attitudes among American whites have gone up quite significantly between 2008 and 2012, to the point where now more than half of white Americans have these anti-black attitudes.’
SPLC’s latest nonprofit income tax return shows that its assets totaled more than $314 million at the end of October 2014.
More than $3 million of its income between 1999 and 2008 came from the Picower Foundation, whose founder Jeffry Picower earned billions–and later had to forfeit the money–from convicted scammer Bernie Madoff’s investment frauds.