BLOGIs It Too Much to Ask for Journalistic Integrity from Our Local News?

By Kristen K. Waggoner Posted on: | August 17, 2017

Two local Phoenix news outlets, 12 News and the Arizona Republic, breached trust and abandoned basic journalistic practice in recent stories, repeating slanderous and scandalous accusations from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to classify Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) as a “hate group.”

In an August 14 story entitled “What are Arizona's hate groups?” 12 News correspondent William Pitts relied entirely on SPLC allegations as the basis for his story. Arizona Republic reporter Cydney Henderson essentially copied and pasted SPLC data distributed to Arizona media outlets for her story.   

Yesterday, ADF sent a letter to these news outlets to bring this issue to their attention and to ask that they take corrective action. We are also asking that they consider a meeting with ADF for the purpose of building trust, correcting misperceptions, and removing obstacles to understanding.

Many years ago, SPLC did good work. Sadly they have lost their way. They have become a discredited group that has been criticized by observers across the ideological spectrum. Described by a critic from the Left as a “mail order scam,” SPLC has set about falsely accusing many people and organizations with the “hate group” label, sometimes with violent results.

As just one example, a would-be-mass-murderer named Floyd Lee Corkins cited SPLC as the motivation for his attempt to kill innocent people working at the Family Research Council in 2012. After he stormed the Family Research Council building (which ADF shared at the time) with the intent to kill, he told investigators that SPLC inspired his rampage. He was later convicted of domestic terrorism.

Coincidentally, this week was the five-year anniversary of this attempted mass murder, so these stories couldn’t have come at a worse moment.

SPLC masquerades as an independent and disinterested “watchdog,” but its true motives have been exposed. A Philanthropy Roundtable article notes that, in a speech, one of SPLC’s senior leaders said:

Sometimes the press will describe us as monitoring hate crimes and so on…. I want to say plainly that our aim in life is to destroy these groups, to completely destroy them.

In this time when ideological tensions are boiling over into violence, it is completely inexcusable for a news organization to repeat the false incitements of a disreputable propagandist like SPLC.

If these organizations would have looked at all of the facts, they would have found that ADF is the world’s largest legal organization advocating for the right of all people to freely and peacefully live and work according to their convictions without fear of government censorship or coercion.

ADF – based right here in Scottsdale – is one of the nation’s most successful Supreme Court advocates, having won seven cases in the last seven years at the High Court. As a result of these successes in a number of significant cases – ranging from a victory for school choice in a case out of Arizona to our most recent win in June, a 7-2 decision on behalf of a church-run preschool in Missouri – ADF has earned its reputation as a well-respected player at the highest levels of the legal profession.

ADF is also known for building strong, trust-centered relationships with the journalists, commentators, and news organizations who report on the intersection of the courts and culture. We understand the need for good journalism and have always been a ready resource for the news media to help the audience understand how complex legal issues impact their daily lives and the future of freedom in our country.   

All we are asking for is a statement of the facts.


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Kristen K. Waggoner

Senior Vice President of U.S. Legal Division, General Counsel – Arizona

Kristen K. Waggoner serves as senior vice president of US legal advocacy, general counsel – Arizona, with Alliance Defending Freedom.

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