Gavin McInnes suing SPLC for defamation over ‘hate’ designations
MONTGOMERY — The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is facing another high-profile legal challenge to its practice of designating and publishing a list of “hate groups” in the United States.
On Monday morning, attorneys for “Proud Boys” founder Gavin McInnes filed a federal lawsuit in the Middle District of Alabama against the SPLC, alleging that the Montgomery-based organization has defamed McInnes, deprived him of economic opportunities and caused him to be terminated from multiple places of employment.
“SPLC’s defamatory, false, and misleading designation of Mr. McInnes as a ‘hate’ figure is purposefully deceitful and intended to tarnish Mr. McInnes’s reputation, disparage Mr. McInnes’s good name and work, inflict harm and financial damage, reduce Mr. McInnes’s goodwill and standing in the community, expose Mr. McInnes, his family and anyone else associated with him to public scorn, harassment, intimidation, and potential violence, and to denigrate, malign, and ridicule Mr. McInnes to countless individuals and potential employers and partners around the world,” the 61-page lawsuit says.
The filing explains, “Mr. McInnes brings this action against SPLC for defaming him by use of the SPLC Hate Designations, and publishing other false, damaging and defamatory statements about him, as alleged in detail below; for its concerted, obsessive and malicious actions taken to ‘deplatform’ Mr. McInnes; for its tortious interference with his economic opportunities; and for intentionally interfering with his contractual relationships by causing, inter alia, the termination of Mr. McInnes’s employment, an almost complete deplatforming and defunding and subjecting him to employment discrimination based on his lawful non-employment recreational activities.”
In a statement to Yellowhammer News, SPLC president Richard Cohen called McInnes’ case “meritless.”
“To paraphrase FDR, judge us by the enemies we’ve made,” Cohen said. “Gavin McInnes has a history of making inflammatory statements about Muslims, women, and the transgender community. The fact that he’s upset with SPLC tells us that we’re doing our job exposing hate and extremism. His case is meritless.”
At a press conference across from the SPLC headquarters Monday afternoon, McInnes said that the Proud Boys was simply a pro-Trump drinking club.
The group has been designated by the SPLC as an “extremist” “hate group.”
McInnes is also the co-founder of VICE Media, as well as a prominent rightwing agitator who has enjoyed a significant national following on digital media platforms.
He was recently terminated by Blaze TV following its absorption of Mark Levin’s Conservative Review Television (CRTV), where McInnes hosted a show. This came after Proud Boys members were charged with assaulting protesters after a McInnes speech in New York City in October. He ended his ties with the group after the incident but told reporters Monday that the Proud Boys arrested had simply been defending themselves against violent far-left protesters.
McInnes has been banned from social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. He alleges that the SPLC’s “defamation” has precluded him from traditional media employment opportunities that he has had in the past (he was formerly a regular guest on Fox News channel, for example), and now being “deplatformed” due to being labeled a “hate figure” has destroyed his ability to make a living or share his message through digital outlets.
The lawsuit is asking that the SPLC be forced to remove McInnes’ designation as a “hate figure” and the “hate group” designation given to the Proud Boys. He is also requesting monetary compensation to relieve the damages allegedly already done to him and a “public retraction, apology and appropriate corrective advertising.”
The SPLC paid a $3.4 million settlement and apologized to an anti-extremist organization last year after a similar defamation lawsuit over the group’s hate designations.
Federal records show the nonprofit, tax-exempt SPLC reported revenues of $132 million and net assets of $450 million for 2017.
McInnes is being represented by Montgomery-based attorney and talk radio host Baron Coleman, along with the New York City firm of Mandelbaum Salsburg PC. Ali Alexander, a political activist and consultant, is also involved in garnering public support for McInnes.
— Ali Alexander 🇺🇸 (@ali) February 4, 2019
You can watch Monday’s press conference here.
You can view a copy of the lawsuit here.
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn