During a hearing on extremism in the military's ranks, a Republican congressman blasted a witness on the credibility of the Southern Poverty Law Center, saying the group has designated major veteran organizations unfairly as hate groups.
But that never happened.
Rep. Pat Fallon, R-Texas, grilled Lecia Brooks, the chief of staff for the Southern Poverty Law Center, over perceived bias against traditionally conservative organizations and veteran groups. Brooks was testifying at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on White supremacy and right-wing extremism in the military and veteran community following the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol shortly after a pro-Trump rally.
"Yes or no question, has your organization named the American Legion as a hate group?" Fallon asked Brooks.
"I don't believe so," she replied.
"I found it, and it did," Fallon replied. "Were you aware they named the VFW as a hate group?"
"Not in our current census, no," Brooks answered.
The Southern Poverty Law Center publishes an annual list of 838 organizations it considers hate groups, defined by SPLC as groups that target specific demographics. This list includes the Ku Klux Klan and the far-right nationalist group Proud Boys.
The list does not include either the VFW or American Legion. Fallon seemingly got this information from the Duffel Blog, a military satire website, which published a piece in 2017 titled "Southern Poverty Law Center classifies VFW and American Legion as hate groups."
"We never listed the VFW or American Legion. That assertion appeared as satire in a blog known as the Duffel Blog," Brooks said.
The satirical Duffel Blog story quoted former SPLC President J. Richard Cohen as saying that "both the VFW and Legion were included since many of their members sympathize with radical, extreme-right-wing ideals such as freedom, safety and family values."
The article added: "'I hate to criminalize a group of decorated war veterans," Cohen said, from somewhere deep within a fog of pit sweat in his corporate think-tank steam room, where Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Moscow) was seen relaxing in the nude."
However, the American Legion came under fire from the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2008 when it published a booklet titled "A Strategy to Address Illegal Immigration in the United States." SPLC decried the document as "anti-immigrant," and said it "regurgitates discredited and often completely false information about how 'illegals' are bringing crime, disease, and terrorism to this country, even as they wreck the economy for natives."
More recently, an American Legion post commander was removed from leadership roles after photos surfaced of him wearing a Proud Boys jacket and marching with other group members during a Dec. 12, 2020, pro-Trump rally in Washington, D.C.
-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon