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The Southern Poverty Law Center just fired its co-founder

The civil rights group said he failed to reflect “the mission of the organization and the values we hope to instill in the world.”

by Emma Ockerman
Mar 14 2019, 9:32pm

A co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center — one of the most prominent civil rights organizations in America — was fired by his own advocacy group for failing to reflect “the mission of the organization and the values we hope to instill in the world.”

It’s not clear what he did.

The SPLC, which closely tracks hate groups, fired the 82-year-old co-founder and former chief litigator Morris Dees yesterday, according to the Montgomery Advertiser. He helped create the Alabama-based organization in 1971.

In an email to VICE News, an SPLC spokesperson declined to elaborate on “individual personnel decisions.”

“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. 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,” SPLC President Richard Cohen said in a statement.

The SPLC said it will bring in an “outside organization to conduct a comprehensive assessment of our internal climate and workplace practices.” The organization has offices in four states, including Alabama, and hundreds of employees.

The Advertiser investigated the SPLC’s business practices and finances in 1994 and found the advocacy group had been accused of treating black employees unfairly. Staffers accused Dees personally “of being a racist,” according to the Advertiser, although the organization denied the accusations. According to a 2017 Politico profile of the SPLC, the investigation was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize, but Dee mobilized against it.

Cover: (From left) Host Tony Harris; Morris Dees, Founder Southern Poverty Law Center; and Heidi Belrich, Intelligence Project Director at SPLC, appear on stage during the "Hate in America" panel at the Investigation Discovery 2016 Winter TCA on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016, in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)