In February of this year, Watching the Watchdogs reported on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s thinly disguised attack on then-candidate Donald Trump that claimed that “election-related” harassment of immigrant and minority children was surging in the public schools due to Trump’s caustic rhetoric. They called the report “The Trump Effect.”
At that time we noted that the SPLC, like all 501(c)(3) nonprofits, was strictly prohibited by IRS tax regulations from promoting or denouncing political candidates during a campaign. The SPLC slid around that regulation by claiming that it had “collected 5,000 comments from 2,000 educators” who responded to an online survey created by the company’s “Teaching Tolerance” wing, which purports to promote diversity in the K-12 classroom.
See, it wasn’t the SPLC attacking Trump, they were simply repeating what they were told by the 2,000 respondents. Get it?
As usual, the Media obediently regurgitated the SPLC’s nonsense without performing even the most rudimentary fact checks, with many of them transmogrifying the company’s claim of “2,000 respondents” into “a survey of 2,000 teachers” and the term “harassment” into “hate crimes.”
What most media outlets conveniently ignored was the clearly stated disclaimer on the “Trump Effect” web page that:
“Our survey of approximately 2,000 K-12 teachers was not scientific. Our email subscribers and those who visit our website are not a random sample of teachers nationally and those who chose to respond to our survey are likely to be those who are most concerned about the impact of the presidential campaign on their students and schools.”
Not only did the SPLC publicly state that their “survey” was not scientific because the respondents were not chosen at random, they can’t even verify that the alleged responses came from actual “educators.”
The same document also notes that “Teaching Tolerance magazine is sent to over 400,000 educators, reaching nearly every school in the country,” and yet the entire “report” is based on only 2,000 anonymous, unverifiable responses?
Either 398,000 “educators” ignored the survey email or the SPLC cherry-picked 2,000 “reliable” people who would give the “right answers.”
Either way, given the widespread media coverage given the “Trump Effect” the reaction among the donors must have been fantastic.
Never one to let a good thing go, on November 28, the SPLC doubled down on its “Trump Effect” cash cow by releasing a new and improved version of the “report,” this time freed from any IRS election-related restrictions.
The new report now claims that “Over 10,000 teachers, counselors, administrators and others who work in schools have responded,” with “more than 25,000 comments.”
As if stung by Watching the Watchdogs‘ observation that all of the alleged responses in the first “report” were anecdotal, anonymous and completely unverifiable, the company made a point of claiming that:
“Nearly all respondents identified themselves by name, email address, grade level and state. More than 1,500 signified a willingness to go on record by giving permission for Teaching Tolerance to share their contact information with the media.”
Despite this apparent willingness to actually document their claims, the 2.0 version of the “Trump Effect” is accompanied by alleged claims by the anonymous likes of “High School Teacher, New York,” and “Elementary School Teacher, Minnesota.” There’s not a single claim backed up the willing 1,500 mentioned above.
And while the company buried its disclaimer a little deeper into the text this time, the song remains the same:
“The results of this survey are not scientific. The respondents were not selected in a manner to ensure a representative sample; those who responded may have been more likely to perceive problems than those who did not.”
Once again, the “report” duly notes that “Teaching Tolerance magazine is sent to more than 400,000 educators, reaching nearly every school in the country,” and yet only 10,000 “educators” allegedly responded.
It’s worth noting that the National Center for Education Statistics estimates that there were more than 3.5 million full-time teachers in the US in 2014, the latest statistical year, meaning that less than three-tenths of a percent of them responded to the SPLC’s open “survey,” anonymously or otherwise. You do the math.
In the long run, it really doesn’t matter. The Media is already regurgitating the SPLC’s “10,000 educator” claims as fact the day after the “report” was released. Even though the company clearly states that its numbers are “not scientific” and has yet to produce one single verifiable respondent, the Media will repeat every last claim as if it were true.
Well played, SPLC. No doubt we’ll see record-breaking donation figures in your next IRS Form 990, as well as much-deserved raises in the six-digit salaries your all-white executives are pulling down.
In the meantime, Watching The Watchdogs will continue to watch and to document your latest fundraising antics. You read it here first.