Conservative news outlets are hyping a minor website change to suggest that the FBI is distancing itself from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) - a group that monitors hate speech and violence - in response to criticism from anti-gay organizations. But the FBI has issued a statement debunking that narrative and continues to publicly touts its partnership with SPLC on its website.
On March 26, Washington Examiner reporter Paul Bedard asserted that the FBI was ending its relationship with SPLC, noting that a link to the group had been scrubbed from the FBI's Hate Crime "resources" page and calling it a "significant rejection of the influential legal group":
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which has labeled several Washington, D.C.-based family organizations as "hate groups" for favoring traditional marriage, has been dumped as a "resource" on the FBI's Hate Crime Web page, a significant rejection of the influential legal group.
The Web page scrubbing, which also included eliminating the Anti-Defamation League, was not announced and came in the last month after 15 family groups pressed Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director James Comey to stop endorsing a group -- SPLC -- that inspired a recent case of domestic terrorism at the Family Research Council.
The FBI had no comment and offered no explanation for its decision to end their website's relationship with the two groups, leaving just four federal links as hate crime "resources." The SPLC had no comment.
Bedard's report has been touted by a number of right-wing media outlets, including The Daily Caller, Breitbart, WorldNetDaily, and The Blaze, which have framed the change as evidence that the FBI is ending its relationship with SPLC in response to criticism from right-wing anti-gay groups. It's also being celebrated by a number of extreme anti-gay organizations - like the Family Research Council (FRC) and American Family Association (AFA) - that have long resented SPLC for labeling them "hate groups." (Contrary to Bedard's report, those groups have been labeled "hate groups" for peddling falsehoods about LGBT people, not for "favoring traditional marriage."
But the claim that the FBI is ending its relationship, or even its website's relationship, with SPLC in response to right-wing outrage is false. As Good As You's Jeremy Hooper noted, the FBI continues to list SPLC as a partner in the fight against hate crimes on its website.
The right-wing narrative is also contradicted by an official statement from the FBI. In a statement to The Daily Caller, and FBI spokesperson said:
"Upon review, the Civil Rights program only provides links to resources within the federal government," an FBI spokesman told The Daily Caller. "While we appreciate the tremendous support we receive from a variety of organizations, we have elected not to identify those groups on the civil rights page."
The FBI's statement makes sense, given that - as Bedard's own report noted - a link to the Anti-Defamation League, which focuses primarily on combating anti-Semitism, was also scrubbed from the FBI's "resources" page.
But a total lack of evidence wasn't enough to stop The Washington Examiner's Bedard from peddling wild theories about an imagined rift between SPLC and the FBI. And it wasn't enough to stop right-wing media outlets, always hungry for an excuse to smear SPLC and vindicate the reputations of their hate group allies, from running with the story.