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Newsweek relies on misleading SPLC labels in reports on Trump's Values Voter Summit speech

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Newsweek stories have not included any details about the Family Research Council's vigorous disputing of the its "hate group" designation, nor a single mention of the pushback the Southern Poverty Law Center has received from both conservatives and liberals for labeling it one. (Daniel Acker/Bloomberg)

The Southern Poverty Law Center's credibility as an objective assessor of hate has long been disputed by observers on both the Left and the Right, but that didn't stop Newsweek from running misleading stories based on the organization's labels this week.

"Donald Trump to speak at hate group's annual event, a first for a president," blared an Oct. 12 headline. "Trump tells hate group Americans 'worship God,' not government," said another published Friday.

Both articles focused on President Trump's address at the Family Research Council's annual Values Voter Summit, a conference sponsored and attended by many mainstream conservative organizations and politicians.

Here's an excerpt from the first article:

No other sitting president has ever taken the decision to address the summit, although Trump has spoken before the conference on three previous occasions — even during his presidential election campaign.
Speaking of the president's decision to attend this year's 12th annual event, SPLC President Richard Cohen told The Independent: "By appearing at the Values Voter Summit, President Trump is lending the legitimacy of his office to a hate group that relentlessly demonizes LGBTQ people and works to deny them of their equal rights."
"His appearance puts the lie to his campaign promise to be a friend to the LGBTQ community. Bigotry is not an American value, and our president should speak out against it," he added.

The second article also said: "Trump, the first sitting president to attend the event hosted by Family Research Council (FRC), a group that has been labeled a hate group by Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), also boasted that his administration was making rapid progress in protecting religious liberty."

Neither story included any details about FRC's vigorous disputing of the SPLC's designation, nor a single mention of the pushback the SPLC has received from both conservatives and liberals for labeling right-leaning, pro-family organizations as hate groups.

We've spilled much ink explaining why the SPLC's strategy of lumping traditional conservative advocacy organizations into the same category as neo-Nazis and the KKK is reckless and dangerous. Just five years ago, a gunman opened fire at FRC's Washington, D.C., headquarters, leaving a security guard injured. He later acknowledged that he had intended to kill dozens and chose his target after he saw the organization was listed as a hate group on the SPLC website.

Liberal journalist Ken Silverstein, who has reported extensively on the SPLC, wrote in 2010 that the nonprofit is "essentially a fraud" with "a habit of casually labeling organizations as 'hate groups.'"

None of this stopped Newsweek.

Because society has long reserved the term "hate group" for neo-Nazi and KKK organizations, readers who come across these headlines could seriously believe the president was addressing a crowd of white supremacists, rather than Christian conservatives.

But, hey, as my colleague Becket Adams highlighted on Monday, Newsweek has been struggling lately.

Emily Jashinsky is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.