- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Gavin McInnes, the founder of the Proud Boys, sued the Southern Poverty Law Center on Monday for allegedly damaging his career by labeling him an “extremist” and “leader of a hate group.”

Filed in federal court in Montgomery, Alabama, the 61-page complaint entered on behalf of Mr. McInnes accuses the SPLC, a civil rights watchdog group, of mounting a “campaign of destruction” against the right-wing media personality and provocateur over his involvement in the Proud Boys, a fraternal organization of self-described “western chauvinists” he launched in 2016.

“They have harassed me, my family and my friends to a level of tortious interference that goes well into sabotage,” Mr. McInnes, 48, said in a statement. “I am doing this, not just to protect my reputation and my family but to protect everyone else’s.”

The lawsuit alleges defamation, tortious interference and other counts stemming from the SPLC’s reporting on Mr. McInnes and the Proud Boys, including the latter’s addition last year to the watchdog’s “Hate Map,” an online listing of hundreds of “active hate groups.”

Ron Coleman, a lawyer representing Mr. McInnes in the lawsuit, blamed the SPLC’s “hate designation” on causing his client to become defunded and deplatformed, or denied access to major social media outlets. Mr. McInnes was subsequently banned from services operated by PayPal, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, allegedly as a result of efforts mounted by the SPLC, according to his lawsuit.

“By leveraging its remarkable power and influence to deplatform and defund targeted groups and individuals such as Mr. McInnes, SPLC deprives those with which it disagrees of venues in which their points of view may be expressed, of income and ultimately of their most priceless possession, their reputations,” Mr. Coleman wrote.

“Besides losing the ability to rehabilitate his reputation by presenting his own case in the social media channels through which he is being harmed by SPLC, Mr. McInnes used and relied on these platforms to reach and expand his audience and to promote services and activities that enhanced his earning capacity both directly and indirectly, all of which he is now unable to do,” Mr. Coleman continued.

Mr. McInnes “is essentially an untouchable,” his attorney added, “unable to retain or be considered for gainful employment in his line of work, much less work that is commensurate with the opportunities available to him prior to SPLC’s campaign of destruction against him.”

Richard Cohen, the president of the SPLC, dismissed the lawsuit as “meritless.”

“To paraphrase FDR, judge us by the enemies we’ve made,” Mr. Cohen said in a statement. “Gavin McInnes has a history of making inflammatory statements about Muslims, women and the transgender community. The fact that he’s upset with SPLC tells us that we’re doing our job exposing hate and extremism. His case is meritless.”

The lawsuit seeks damages, as well as an injunction, a retraction and an apology from the SPLC.

Quilliam Foundation, a counter-extremist organization led by former British politician Maajid Nawaz, received a $3.375 million settlement and an apology last year after winning a defamation suit of its own against the SPLC.

Several members of the Proud Boys were arrested in connection with a violent street brawl that erupted after Mr. McInnes spoke at the Metropolitan Republican Club in Manhattan in October 2018. Mr. McInness announced the following month that he was “officially disassociating” himself from the Proud Boys as a result of the incident.

“We are not an extremist group, and we do not have ties with white nationalists,” he said in a video statement announcing his separation.

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