The author of a Southern Poverty Law Center report that labels parental rights organizations as extremist hate groups met earlier this year with Biden National Security Council officials, according to White House records.
Susan Corke, the director of the SPLC's Intelligence Project, this week added Moms for Liberty, Parents Defending Education, and other parent organizations to its "hate map," alongside neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. Corke visited the White House on Jan. 6, 2023, and met with National Security Council counterterrorism director John Picarelli, according to White House visitor logs reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon. Corke, a former State Department official, was accompanied by researchers from American University who work with the SPLC.
The SPLC's access to the White House is likely to draw outcry from Republicans who have long questioned the left-wing group's arbitrary "hate map" designations. The inclusion of parent groups could raise concerns that the organizations could become targets of violence. A gunman who shot a security guard at the headquarters of the Family Research Council in 2012 said he attacked the pro-family organization after seeing it listed as a hate group by the SPLC.
"The SPLC is a garbage organization now dedicated to harassing groups that advocate for parents. In the future, their pronouncements must be met with scorn," Sen. J.D. Vance (R., Ohio) said of the SPLC report.
The SPLC, which itself has faced accusations that it harbors a "systemic culture of racism," classified the pro-parent organizations as "anti-government groups." Corke asserted that the parents' groups serve as the "new battlefront vs inclusivity in schools" and "are rooted in age-old white supremacy."
While it is unclear what Corke discussed in the White House visit, the meeting was held amid growing pressure on the Biden administration to track parents upset by schools' coronavirus policies and left-wing classroom curricula. Moms for Liberty and Parents Defending Education have emerged as the leading grassroots groups in the movement against mask mandates at schools and curricula that promote critical race theory and transgender issues.
The FBI opened 25 preliminary investigations into parents, though only one advanced to a full investigation. FBI agents interviewed one member of a Moms for Liberty chapter who threatened to vote local school board members out of office over mask mandates.
The investigations were part of a task force started in 2021 by Attorney General Merrick Garland to monitor school board meetings across the country for threats of violence. Garland launched the task force after the National School Boards Association called on the Biden administration to investigate parents as potential domestic terrorists. Republicans have accused the administration of colluding with the school board group, citing a series of meetings that White House and Justice Department officials had with members of the group.
Federal agencies and the White House have relied on the SPLC as a resource against extremism, even amid concerns about the group's methods for determining hate groups. The FBI earlier this year cited SPLC research in an intelligence memo that called for surveillance of traditionalist Catholic groups in Virginia. The White House last month tapped the SPLC to serve on a coalition to track anti-Semitism. In an ironic twist, organizations such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the National Action Network, led by anti-Semite Al Sharpton, were also selected for the task force.
"The SPLC is a hateful, bigoted, and despicable organization," said Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas). "They're now attacking and labeling parents who want to have a say in their own kids' education."
The SPLC and the National Security Council did not respond to requests for comment.