Morris Dees has been fired from the center he founded for undisclosed “misconduct.” His very name is being scrubbed from the SPLC website. The Alabama Political Reporter [APR] claims to have inside knowledge of alleged sexual harassment and allegations of gender and race based discrimination.
But internal emails obtained by APR related to Dees’ firing appear to show that the problems — which employees said spanned from sexual harassment to gender- and race-based discrimination — were more systemic and widespread, creating an atmosphere over several years in which female and minority employees felt mistreated. The employees also said that they felt their complaints were either not heard or resulted in retaliation from senior staff.
The spark that ignited the near-mutiny at SPLC appears to have been the resignation of senior attorney Meredith Horton, and an email she sent to senior leadership. That email noted the hardships women and employees of color faced at SPLC. It was forwarded by Cohen to all staff with a message that there would be a commitment within SPLC to address those concerns.
Allegations of sexual misconduct by Morris Dees have been common and go all the back to the 1970s. The most notorious allegations were made by his former step-daughter Holly Buck.
She testified that Dees sexually attacked her on a summer night in 1977. Dee’s allegedly entered her bedroom in his underwear with a plug in vibrating dildo. She says Dees claimed to have “a present” and intended to penetrate her with the vibrator. Holly screamed and fought Dees off. However, she says Dees came in a second time two hours later and repeated the entire incident. Holly also alleged that she caught Dees spying on her taking a shower.
Historically, Dees has had many problems with mutinies. In 1986, the entire legal staff of the SPLC quit at the same time. They slammed Dees for his money chasing tactics and said he was not doing anything to help black people. After that, the SPLC began relying heavily on short term college interns. People who would not be employed long enough to start a mutiny. However, problems continue to this day. SPLC senior attorney Meredith Horton just recently quit and wrote a protest letter claiming the SPLC discriminated against women and people of color.
Allegations that the SPLC discriminates against black people have also been levied for decades. Despite being located in a majority black city, and a majority black county, the SPLC never seems to hire many black people. In the first twenty three years of its existence, the SPLC only hired two black attorneys. One of which, Gloria Browne, later went on denounce the center as a fraud. Eventually, they made several black men and women honorary unpaid board members just so they could have pictures of blacks in alleged leadership positions on their website.
In 1994, the Montgomery Advertiser published an investigative report on the SPLC. They interviewed multiple former black employees who alleged racial abuse at the hands of white staff. Some even alleged that other SPLC staffers used racial slurs.
Morris Dees was once a lawyer for an infamous violent KKK leader. Dees gained fame by getting his client acquitted of a high profile assault charge, even though there was photographic evidence and over a dozen witnesses. However, Dees saw first hand how much cash was being spent to combat the KKK and he wanted a piece. So he created the SPLC under the pretense of “fighting the KKK.” Dees had a knack for raising money. He worked as a fundraiser for Ted Kennedy, George McGovern, and Jimmy Carter.
As Dees continued to amass a fortune, more and more people on both the right and the left accused him of being a fraud. Even the Anti-Defamation League could not take it anymore and denounced the SPLC in 2015. ADL national spokesman Mark Pitcavage characterized SPLC literature as “wildly exaggerated.” This was after the SPLC falsely claimed that New Jersey had seventeen active “neo-Nazi Skinhead” groups. None of the alleged groups listed by the SPLC had been seen in New Jersey since the 1990s.
Numerous people have filed defamation lawsuits against the SPLC. Several are ongoing. In 2018, the SPLC settled a major defamation lawsuit out of court. They agreed to pay several million to charities. That same year they issued humiliating apologies to over a dozen people to avoid new lawsuits.
Suddenly, after all this time, the rest of the staff of the SPLC has turned on its own founder Morris Dees. He has been fired for “misconduct.”
SPLC president Richard Cohen refuses to state the exact reason for Dees being fired. However, he issued the following statement to media:
“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.”