Southern Poverty Law Center, Winner Of Two Oscars, Fires Founder Morris Dees

A controversial nonprofit organization that has won two Academy Awards for its civil rights documentaries and has been a consultant on hate crimes to many TV shows has fired its founder and leader today.

The Southern Poverty Law Center said it has fired founder Morris Dees, citing unspecified misconduct by the 82-year-old, who started the organization in 1971.

“As a civil rights organization, the SPLC is committed to ensuring that the conduct of our staff reflects the mission of the organization and the values we hope to instill in the world,” said President Richard Cohen in a statement. “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.”

Dees spoke to the Associated Press and said the firing resulted from a personnel issue, but didn’t provide details. He said he wished the organization luck.

The SPLC has already removed Dees bio from its website and said it has hired an outside firm to assess the Birmingham, Alabama workplace’s climate and practices.

Hollywood has had a long association with the SPLC, even as the organization’s credibility has lately been criticized for its over-zealousness in labeling individuals and organizations. It once named Housing and Urban Development head Ben Carson on its “Extremist Watch List” for his views on same-sex marriage, and settled a defamation lawsuit for $3.376 million brought by Maajid Nawaz, who was denounced in a report titled A Journalist’s Manual: Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremism. The moderate Nawaz’s charity, the Quilliam Foundation, opposed extremism in all forms, including that by anti-Muslim bigots.

The SPLC has won Academy Awards for Documentary Short Subject: A Time for Justice (1994) and Mighty Times: The Children’s March (2004). The organization also teamed with the Discovery Network and the NBC News production unit Peacock Productions on the series And Justice For All, using SPLC case files for subject matter. 

The SPLC also partnered with the George & Amal Clooney Foundation for Justice, which bestowed a $1 million grant to the organization.

However, its credibility has waned even as its donations rose. Just last summer, the liberal Washington Post ran an article headlined, “The Southern Poverty Law Center Has Lost All Credibility.”



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