By MARY SELL
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Southern Poverty Law Center is being sued for defamation by the founder of Proud Boys, an organization SPLC designated a hate group.
According to Gavin McInnes’ 61-page lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Montgomery and obtained by Alabama Daily News, SPLC’s “targeting” of McInnes got him banned from social media platforms and inhibited his ability to make a living.
“SPLC’s campaign against Mr. McInnes is arguably the most successful employment of its system for personally destroying those it disagrees with on ideological grounds,” the suit says.
The SPLC’s website describes Proud Boys’ ideology as “general hate” and says its members and leaders regularly spout white nationalist themes and are known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric. Proud Boys have appeared alongside other hate groups at extremist gatherings like the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017.
Richard Cohen, president of SPLC, on Monday called McInnes’ lawsuit meritless.
“To paraphrase FDR, judge us by the enemies we’ve made,” Cohen said in a statment sent to Alabama Daily News. “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.”
McInnes’ lawsuit describes him as a “humorist, businessman, political commentator and social critic” and “opponent of discrimination.” He’s a co-founder of Vice Media, leaving the company in 2008. He founded Proud Boys in 2016.
The lawsuit comes after McInnes late last year reportedly stepped down from what he’s said is a fraternal organization.
“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’ good name and work, inflict harm and financial damage, reduce Mr. McInnes’ 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.”
According to the lawsuit, Proud Boys’ bylaws prohibit members from promoting the supremacy of any one race over another.
But according to SPLC, McInnes “plays a duplicitous rhetorical game: rejecting white nationalism and, in particular, the term ‘alt-right’ while espousing some of its central tenets.”
Southern Poverty’s website lists several quotes attributed to McInnes in recent years:
“Palestinians are stupid. Muslims are stupid. And the only thing they really respect is violence and being tough.”
“Muslims have a problem with inbreeding. They tend to marry their first cousins…and that is a major problem here because when you have mentally damaged inbreds — which not all Muslims are, but a disproportionate number are — and you have a hate book called the Koran…you end up with a perfect recipe for mass murder.”
“Maybe the reason I’m sexist is because women are dumb. No, I’m just kidding, ladies. But you do tend to not thrive in certain areas — like writing.”
It also quotes his use of racial and anti-gay slurs.
McInnes has been banned from major social media platforms YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, according to media reports. Last month, his podcasts were banned from iTunes, according to the lawsuit.
“SPLC has, through the actions alleged above, successfully deplatformed Mr. McInnes and rendered him virtually unemployable or, at best, has severely compromised his
earning capacity and bargaining power with respect to future employment and the compensation therefor,” the lawsuit states.
McInnes lives in New York and is being represented locally by attorney and radio show host Baron Coleman. Coleman told Alabama Daily News that he wouldn’t represent a racist or anti-semite.
“I wasn’t familiar with Gavin or his work prior to beginning work on this case,” he said. “But there is absolutely zero excuse in America for systematically targeting someone for complete personal and financial destruction because they support a different politician or different set of political beliefs.”
McInnes is expected at a press conference today in Montgomery to discuss the lawsuit.
Last year, SPLC apologized and agreed to a $3.3 million settlement to Maajid Nawaz’s Quilliam Foundation after admitting to falsely labeling his advocacy organization as “extremist.” Nawaz, Newsweek reported last year, is a former British politician who has railed against Islamic extremism and the false use of the Koran to incite violence around the globe, and Quilliam was incorrectly characterized and listed in the SPLC’s “A Journalist’s Manual: Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists.”