Fake News from the SPLC

Jeryl Bier, Wall Street Journal, October 12, 2017

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As the SPLC described the incident: “Just a week before the November 8th election, attackers set a church in Greenville, Mississippi, on fire. The historically black church was targeted in what authorities believe was an act of voter intimidation, its walls spray-painted with the phrase ‘Vote Trump.’ ”

But the SPLC’s “harbinger” turned out to be fake news. Three weeks after the center issued its report, police arrested a member of the vandalized church, Andrew McClinton, and charged him with arson.

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Although the December 2016 arrest was widely reported at the time, the SPLC did not update or correct its report until I called it to their attention this week.

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The SPLC has recently come under fire for its tendency to focus on “hate” only when it comes from what the SPLC sees as the political right, and for false characterizations, such as its designation of the Family Research Council as a “hate group” or libertarian social scientist Charles Murray as a “white nationalist.”

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The Post is only one of scores of websites, including many news organizations, that have referenced the “Ten Days After” report in the months since it was published. The report was even cited in congressional testimony in May, long after Mr. McClinton’s arrest. Several books published in 2017 cite the report as a source. None of the references I reviewed note that the “hate incident” story has fallen apart.

I emailed the SPLC Thursday with a series of questions about the false report. Wendy Via, the center’s communications chief, responded: “I’m still not able to answer all of your questions.”

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She also acknowledged that the SPLC’s reports “are anecdotal.”

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