Morris Dees, the founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, who successfully litigated several white hate groups out of existence, has been fired from his own organization for unspecified misconduct, effective Wednesday.
Dees spearheaded the prodigious fundraising that has built up a war chest of more than $500 million, a portion of which is held offshore. According to the Montgomery Advertiser, the SPLC has announced they are bringing in an external firm to audit the nonprofit’s workplace practices.
A series of articles in that same newspaper in the 1990s detailed an environment at the Center in which black employees felt discriminated against. This has fueled speculation that discriminatory behavior might have led to Dees’s ouster. In that same series, the Advertiser published photos of the inside of his ‘poverty palace’, a villa with Italian roof tiles and a half-indoor, half-outdoor pool.
The allegations in his divorce case have floated around for years, part of a brief filed by his ex-wife Maureen, in which Dees is accused of molesting his stepdaughter. The filing also alleges he refused to give up his mistress, whom he got pregnant before allegedly paying for her abortion, and that he attempted to catch his ex-wife in a sort of cuckoldry sting. After they had agreed to see other people, Dees supposedly showed up with a Montgomery private detective during one of her liaisons with another man in Washington, DC. At the conclusion of the 1980 divorce proceedings, the judge said: ‘We are of the opinion that to [relate the conduct each party accuses the other of] would be detrimental to the best interest of the parties and in particular to their children.’ Some obscure websites opted to surface the claims regardless.
Josh Moon, an Alabama reporter, says the allegations involve some kind of sexual misconduct:
The SPLC fired Morris Dees yesterday and announced it today. Multiple sources have told me that the allegations of inappropriate conduct involve sexual harassment incidents. Multiple incidents that have come to light after an initial recent allegation.
— Josh Moon (@Josh_Moon) March 14, 2019
It remains to be seen whether Dees’s firing will cause tech giants like Google to reevaluate their relationship with the SPLC, which is part of a content moderation partner program called ‘trusted flaggers.’