An article on ABCNews.com aggressively touted fears by the liberal Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) that prominent conservative are spreading hate. The headline for the March 3 piece by Anna Schecter screamed, "Dobbs, Beck, Palin, Bachmann Share Blame For Rise in Right-Wing Extremism, Says Activist Group."
Schecter interviewed SPLC director Mark Potok and repeated, "Potok said he blames some public personalities and conservative politicians for inciting fear." The ABC News author also fretted about tea party extremism: "Potok said one of the main fears is that these radical groups are infiltrating mainstream groups like the Tea Party movement because of cross pollination of individuals who attend radical group meetings and more mainstream gatherings."
Schecter did note that Lou Dobbs hit back at SPLC, calling Potok "paranoid." In an odd aside, the author explained, "Bachmann and Beck are also cited by name in the SPLC's report, but Dobbs and Palin are not." If that's the case, why are they featured in the headline of the ABC News article?
Schecter relayed this information from the study:
The number of hate groups based on racism, anti-Semitism and anti-gay sentiment grew from 926 to 932 in 2009. SPLC said this increase caps a decade in which the number of hate groups surged by 55 percent from 2000 to 2009 (602 groups to 932). [Emphasis added.]
So, the number of bigoted groups grew by six in the last year? That's less than one percent. If you follow the SPLC's logic, Beck and Palin couldn't be spreading very much hate.
Media outlets have eagerly hyped the liberal organization's report. On Tuesday, Potok appeared on MSNBC News Live to announce his findings to Contessa Brewer. He then showed up on The Dylan Ratigan Show. Finally, the SPLC's Heidi Bierich appeared on Tuesday's Ed Show to warn about right-wing extremism. And, yes, this was all in one day.