DHS Awarded $750k Grant to SPLC Partner to ‘Inoculate’ Teens Against Extremism

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas / Getty Images
June 10, 2023

The Biden administration awarded a six-figure grant to a liberal think tank to produce "inoculation" videos to fight extremism. The organization in question, the Polarization & Extremism Research & Innovation Lab (PERIL), has extensive ties to the Southern Poverty Law Center and is led by a professor who serves on an advisory committee for the left-wing activist group.

The Department of Homeland Security awarded $749,828 to the group as part of its Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention program, according to government records reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon. PERIL will use the funds to improve "media literacy" to identify extremist ideas and form "inoculation tactics to create off-ramps from violent extremism."

PERIL was featured in SPLC’s latest "Hate and Extremism" report, which classified parents' rights organizations like Moms for Liberty as an extremist hate group and partners with the organization on other projects.

The grant comes as Homeland Security is under fire for a number of initiatives that critics say are used to censor and monitor conservatives. The agency launched an ill-fated Disinformation Governance Board that was led by a researcher who pushed false claims about Hunter Biden’s laptop and Trump-Russia collusion.

PERIL’s liberal leanings and its collaboration with the SPLC could raise concerns about how the DHS grant will be used. PERIL is led by Cynthia Miller-Idriss, an MSNBC columnist who serves on SPLC’s hate and extremism advisory committee. She acknowledged at a congressional hearing last month that her primary area of focus is "the far-right" and that white supremacists and militias post "the greatest and most lethal threat" to domestic national security. Her bias was on display last year in an MSNBC column that asserted "the far right has taken advantage of pandemic home fitness trends" to radicalize more Americans.

PERIL does not list the Southern Poverty Law Center as a collaborator on its Homeland Security project, but the two organizations have worked hand-in-glove on a variety of initiatives in recent years. Miller-Idriss, the PERIL director, visited the White House earlier this year with the SPLC researcher who placed the parents’ groups on its hate watch list, the Free Beacon reported.

In 2021, the SPLC awarded $77,863 to PERIL for a "rapid response" initiative for parents and educators related to COVID-19 and the "Far Right."

Last year, SPLC awarded PERIL and Miller-Idriss $656,000 for a "Care Launch Center" and another $89,125 to map "gun rights rhetoric and narratives" in order to combat youth gun violence. PERIL has accused gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association of promoting "pro-gun propaganda" that "prey[s] on the insecurities of boys and men" and leads to gun violence.

PERIL and the Department of Homeland Security did not respond to requests for comment.