The Southern Poverty Law Center, a decidedly liberal non-profit civil rights organization, has for decades been held up by the left as an unassailable arbiter of all that is right and good. But in the course of just a week, everything has changed for the SPLC.
Several of the group’s top executives, including its president, have now walked away from the organization in the wake of internal turmoil over accusations of discrimination, racism, sexism, and misconduct.
SPLC president resigns in disgrace
Richard Cohen announced on Friday that he would be resigning from his top role at the SPLC, which he has been with since 1986.
“Whatever problems exist at the SPLC happened on my watch, so I take responsibility for them,” Cohen wrote in an internal email obtained by the Los Angeles Times and other media outlets.
Cohen’s departure came just one week after he had fired the SPLC’s co-founder, chief litigator, and public face — Morris Dees — over unspecified allegations of misconduct.
“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,” Cohen said of Dees’ firing, according to a report from the Montgomery Adviser, which has long reported on the various goings-on involving the Alabama-based civil rights organization.
Dees co-founded the SPLC in 1971 and been with the organization ever since, even as he faced anonymous allegations of racial discrimination against employees in the mid-1990s.
Cohen also requested in his email to other members of the organization that they refrain from reaching premature conclusions until an internal review is conducted.
Tina Tchen, who previously served as chief of staff to former First Lady Michelle Obama, has been tapped to lead that review.
Allegations remain unclear
Cohen’s resignation was not the only high-profile departure from the organization on Friday. The SPLC’s legal director, Rhonda Brownstein, also tendered her resignation that day for unclear reasons.
She declined a request for comment from the L.A. Times.
These resignations came on the heels of the recent departure of top attorney Meredith Horton, an African-American woman who’d cryptically suggested in an internal email that there were significant internal issues at the SPLC that needed to be dealt with.
That move prompted roughly two dozen employees to raise concerns about “allegations of mistreatment, sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and racism” — concerns that culminated in Cohen’s resignation.
The SPLC has made a name for itself by smearing prominent figures on the right as racist and sexist bigots and haters. But as it turns out, those smears were nothing but projection to distract everyone from the bigotry, racism, and sexism that was occurring within its own ranks.